Rao S. Rapaka, Ph.D


Remarks by Frank Porreca & Victor J. Hruby,
University of Arizona

It is a pleasure for me to introduce Dr. Rao Rapaka, the winner of this year's J. Michael Morrison award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence. This is a great personal pleasure for me since I have known and worked with Dr. Rapaka for fifteen years and I consider him a close friend. It is also a pleasure from a professional perspective. There are many reasons why Dr. Rapaka is deserving of this award and I would like to take a few moments to tell you about him. You should know that Dr. Rapaka was nominated for this award by eighteen scientists, all of whom were NIDA grantees who have worked with Dr. Rapaka for many years. This support from many eminent scientists comes from Dr. Rapaka's many special qualities which lead to his nomination and selection for this honor by the College.

Dr. Rapaka has outstanding leadership and administrative skills. He has made vigorous, sincere, creative, and tireless efforts to foster the success of substance abuse research development and treatment by NIDA grantees. Dr. Rapaka's efforts to ensure the success of such research programs in substance abuse has been of utmost importance in the scientific research community. He has provided strong support of science and the development of scientists engaged in pursuit of research goals that are of interest to NIDA. Dr. Rapaka's career has shown a commitment to science, and its advancement, and to providing solutions to the staggering problems of drug abuse in our society. Such commitment has led so many scientists from the College to support him for this award. Dr. Rapaka has demonstrated a broad vision of science, embracing novel techniques which have the capacity to lead to important new discoveries. Dr. Rapaka continuously suggests the incorporation of new ideas into new and existing research programs to yield significant advancement of the substance abuse field.

An impressive aspect of Dr. Rapaka's efforts is his knowledge of the literature and his desire to identify scientifically sound approaches that may lead to the development of medications which can be effective in treating abuse and addiction in our society. Much of these efforts can be traced to Dr. Rapaka's excellent background as a creative and contributing scientist. Dr. Rapaka has published more than 100 research articles in excellent journals, in addition to a variety of reviews which have drawn attention to specific problems in substance abuse and novel approaches to their solution. He has edited a number of monographs which have examined many areas of substance abuse research, and he continues to serve the scientific community by reviewing for journals publishing studies in the field.

Dr. Rapaka has made a number of contributions which deserve special mention. He was one of the first to encourage strong interactions between basic chemistry groups and biologists by promoting program projects and interdisciplinary research grants in medicinal chemistry. These efforts have brought together creative chemistry and novel biology, and have resulted in the development of substances which have been invaluable in exploring fundamental issues of the neurobiology of substance abuse. These molecules may also ultimately lead to the development of novel medications which will be of clinical importance. Dr. Rapaka has also issued numerous RFP's to encourage applications from scientists who were not engaged in substance abuse research and such efforts have led to the inclusion of many individuals who bring special insights to the field of substance abuse research.

In personal interactions with Rao, he has carefully monitored the progress of work in my funded projects, and has continually strived to make me aware of new techniques which might be useful, and has even gone so far as to send me citations from the research literature that he felt would be important to the project. This type of enthusiasm and support is rare and embodies the outstanding qualities which identify Dr. Rapaka as one of the very best scientific administrators who provides personal enthusiasm and significant technical expertise to the efforts of individual investigators.

An important achievement of Dr. Rapaka is the development of a Drug Research Resource Program. The value of such a program cannot be underestimated since it is very important that NIDA grantees have available to further their research efforts the most selective and appropriate research tools. Dr. Rapaka's efforts in this area has insured a readily available supply of such chemicals and drugs, including peptides and radiolabeled substances, which have been invaluable in moving the field forward.

Dr. Rapaka has also been personally involved in the development of a data base for drug development, and receptor and stimulant screening contracts which allow investigators to submit samples for assay and evaluation of results relative to a group of well characterized standards. These efforts have been of great value, especially to groups without significant biological support, in allowing novel compounds to be identified and explored.

An additional aspect of Dr. Rapaka's work has involved the organization of state of the art NIDA workshops and technical reviews. Such efforts have led to scientific exchange of novel ideas and approaches, and allowed for more rapid definition of clear goals and objectives designed to improve the chances of success for NIDA's efforts to develop novel approaches for treatment of substance abuse.

The efforts of Dr. Rapaka also have not gone unnoticed at NIDA where he has recently earned a meritorious achievement award for his leadership and establishment of international peptide research programs. He has also been recognized by being named a Fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. These groups of his peers in government and in the scientific community have all recognized Dr. Rapaka's outstanding and creative service.

The choice of Dr. Rapaka for the J. Michael Morrison Award provides a formal endorsement of an already widely held and existing appreciation and respect for Dr. Rapaka by the research community. This award from the CPDD is an honor which recognizes an outstanding public servant. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Rao Rapaka, winner of the 1997 J. Michael Morrison Award.

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