Matthew Whittaker, Ph.D., Pharmacology/ Toxicology Reviewer, US FDA

in Alumni Spotlight
December 4th, 2012

Dr. Matthew Whittaker completed his undergraduate studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA in 2000 with a B.A. in Biology. He joined the laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology in the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine in 2003, where he studied in the Program in Biomedical Neuroscience under the mentorship of Dr. David Farb. His Ph.D. research centered on investigating the effects of neuroactive steroids on neurotransmitter release from isolated axon terminals (synaptosomes/synaptoneurosomes) derived from rat brain. The research project demonstrated that pregnenolone sulfate, at pM concentrations, enhances the release of [3H]dopamine, but not [14C]glutamate or [3H]GABA, from rat striatal synaptosomes via an NMDA receptor dependent mechanism. Dr. Whittaker was the recipient of the Henry I. Russek Student Achievement Award in 2009.

Following his Ph.D. thesis defense in 2009, Dr. Whittaker joined the laboratory of Dr. Jean Wrathall as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Neuroscience at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Here, his research interests shifted toward investigation of therapies for spinal cord injury. Working in collaboration with Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., the research found that administration of the neuregulin glial growth factor 2 (GGF2) improves long term functional recovery in both rat and mouse models of contusive spinal cord injury. This work led to the filing of a provisional patent application in 2010. Dr. Whittaker’s research was supported in part by a Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship Grant and he was also a co-investigator on a Department of Defense Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP) grant.

Dr. Whittaker left the field of academic research in September, 2011 to accept a position as a Pharmacology/Toxicology Reviewer in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Rheumatology Products (DPARP) at the United States Food and Drug Administration in Silver Spring, MD. In this capacity, Dr. Whittaker works with teams of medical officers, chemists, statisticians, and clinical pharmacologists to critically review and evaluate the data submitted with Investigational New Drug applications (INDs), New Drug Applications (NDAs) and Biologics License Applications (BLAs).  He was recently honored by having his abstract highlighted by the Society for Neuroscience as of special interest and for a press release to the media. He also serves on the Center for Drug Evaluation and Review (CDER) Neurotoxicology Subcommittee.