12th Annual Ori Rotstein Lecture in Translational Research

by Nikou Kelardashti

Graphic design by Livia Nguyen

On November 2nd, 2022, the Institute of Medical Science (IMS) held its 12th annual Ori Rotstein Lecture in Translational Research. The Ori Rotstein lecture series is an annual event established in 2011 to honor Dr. Ori Rotstein. Dr. Rotstein was the director of IMS from 2001 to 2011 and one of his many contributions was highlighting translational research as one of the main features of IMS. Throughout the years, the topics for these lecture series have ranged from basic science to clinical science and population health. 

This was the first year after COVID-19 that this lecture was offered in person at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute. The first half of the event consisted of an informative and very interesting keynote lecture delivered by Dr. Yasmine Hurd entitled “Translating the Neurobiology of Addiction for Novel Treatments of Opioid Use Disorder.” Dr. Hurd is an internationally renowned neuroscientist, the Ward-Coleman Chair of Translational Neuroscience, and the Director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital. The keynote lecture was followed by an inspiring panel discussion with accomplished panelists of diverse backgrounds. 

In her keynote lecture, Dr. Hurd first discussed the huge burden of the opioid crisis and its roots in the over-prescription of opioids for chronic pain treatment. As Dr. Hurd explained, methadone has long been a conventional, substitution treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). However, one of the major complications with substitution treatment is that it can lead to replacing one addiction with another. This signifies the need for new and more effective treatments for OUD as well as a better understanding of the neuroscience behind addiction. Upon examining the brain of heroin addicts, Dr. Hurd’s research team found dysregulation in their gene expression similar to what is seen in cancer patients. This has led them to try to repurpose and utilize the research in the cancer field for OUD treatment. Dr. Hurd also talked about the use of cannabidiol (CBD), one of 113 total cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, for OUD treatment. Their research has shown that CBD alleviates drug-seeking behavior associated with environmental cues while showing no addictive properties itself. Overall, Dr. Hurd’s research points towards a bright future for finding more effective treatments for OUD. 

The second half of the event consisted of a thought-provoking panel discussion entitled “Highlighting Unique Journeys Through Research.” Dr. Rotstein moderated the panel discussion between Dr. Sarah Habibi (Ph.D., STEM content creator), Dr. Neeru Gupta (MD, Ph.D., Temerty Faculty of Medicine), Dr. Gabriella Chan (JD, Ph.D., Temerty Faculty of Medicine), Dr. Aadil Ali (Ph.D., Traferox Technologies Inc.), and the keynote speaker Dr. Yasmine Hurd. The discussion revolved around the research journeys of the panelists and how they overcame different barriers throughout their journeys. Some of the advice from the panelists were being open to opportunities, creating a value system, remembering to focus on the process as much as the goal, dreaming big, and being persistent. They also emphasized that each person should find their unique path and not compare themselves to others. 

Overall, the 12th annual Ori Rotstein lecture ended on a high note leaving the attendees excited about the future and passionate to embark upon their own unique journeys.