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Mariava Phillips
May 1, 2023

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) announced UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Professor Jeff Aubé as the recipient of the AACP Volwiler Research Achievement Award.  

The Volwiler Research Achievement Award is intended to recognize a person within the ranks of pharmacy who is a leading researcher in an area of the pharmaceutical and clinical sciences, pharmacy practice and the social and administrative sciences and for outstanding contributions to the respective disciplines. 

“It’s a very nice recognition for a lot of work done by a lot of people—science is a community effort,” said Aubé, Eshelman Distinguished Professor in the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry and professor in the Department of Chemistry. “I’ve been so privileged to work with great students here at Carolina and wonderful collaborators.”  

Aubé is the third faculty member from the School to receive this distinguished honor—following Kim Brouwer, Pharm.D., Ph.D., William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, in 2020 and the late Kuo-Hsiung (K.H.) Lee, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in 2015. 

Brouwer, who co-nominated Aubé, said, “He has had an exemplary research career as a scientist and innovator in the fields of organic and medicinal chemistry. He is most deserving of this prestigious award – equivalent to the “Nobel Prize” in academic pharmacy. We are fortunate to have him as a faculty colleague at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.” 

Aubé’s Laboratory mixes innovation in basic chemistry with a commitment to chemical biology and drug discovery. His research includes infectious diseases and developing new treatments for tuberculosis, discovering new chemical matter to treat various types of cancer, studying new opioids lacking side-effects and developing probe compounds and drug candidates for neuroscience applications such as addiction and depression.  

“Basically, it comes down to one word—chemistry. We figure out ways to make molecules better, work more efficiently and with greater control. Then we apply what we’ve learned to all kinds of areas related to pharmacy and drug discovery,” he said. 

Some of Aubé’s research is addressing the current opioid crisis. Each year, the U.S. is negatively impacted by opioid use disorder – 106,000 lives lost in 2021 alone according to the National Institutes of Health.  

In the years to come, Aubé hopes to create a pathway to developing new opioid drugs and alternatives to morphine and fentanyl. The goal is to create drugs without the addictive side-effects that many are struggling with today.  

Aubé acknowledges that this specific research is long-term. “All because a problem is hard and the solution may take a long time, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on it,” he said. “I would argue the harder the project the more important it is to work on it, even if I’m the one laying down the groundwork for the generation after me.” 

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