Biographical Sketch: Baldomero M. Olivera, Ph.D.

1996 Stetten Lecture

From his unconventional beginnings in an unequipped lab in the Philippine, Dr. Baldomero M. Olivera has risen to become one of the leaders of the fast-growing field of neuropharmacology. Using a unique peptide source--venomous marine snails--Dr. Olivera and his coworkers have identified and characterized several dozen neurotoxins that target specific ion channels in the central nervous system. These peptide toxins are now widely used in neuroscience research. One peptide enabled identification of voltage-gated calcium channel subtypes, a major contribution to the field.

Dr. Olivera's primary interest is in the molecular mechanisms underlying nervous system function. His work has lead to the development of a drug, now in clinical trails, that appears to be more effective against chronic pain than morphine. Knowledge provided by his basic research studies may also shed light on conditions, such as schizophrenia and epilepsy, that involve the function of receptors and ion channels in the nervous system.

His earlier research includes the characterization of E. coli DNA ligase and of pyridine nucleotide cycles.

Dr. Olivera is the Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of Utah, where he has been on the faculty since 1970. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of the Philippines, a Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology with Dr. Norman Davidson, and did postdoctoral work at Stanford University with Dr. I. Robert Lehman.

Beginning with his selection as a Fulbright Scholar in 1961, Dr. Olivera has continued to receive honors and awards and has served on several editorial boards.

Dr. Olivera has been an NIGMS grantee since 1979.