David H. Farb, PhD, Announces Plans to Step Down as Chair of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics

headshot of Dr. Farb against white backgroundAfter 31 years at BUSM as Chair of the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, David H Farb, PhD, has announced his intention to step down from his role as chair of the department when a successor is appointed. Thereafter, he will focus more on his own research in neural systems basis for memory disorders and on his leadership of the T32 Biomolecular Pharmacology training program.

Over the next year, Dr. Farb will prepare the department (now ranked in the top 18th percentile) for its transition from his leadership to its next stages of development.

Dr. Farb received his BA in chemistry from Long Island University, where he was president of the American Chemical Society chapter and received honors including the American Institute of Chemists Award. He received his PhD in Biochemistry (enzyme mechanisms/bioorganic chemistry) with William P. Jencks, MD, at Brandeis University. As a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School with Gerald D. Fischbach, MD, he identified gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in spinal cord and made the major discovery with his colleagues Drs. Dennis Choi and Gerald Fischbach that the anti-anxiety agent chlordiazepoxide, a benzodiazepine, acts by selectively enhancing the GABA response on CNS neurons. Work from his independent laboratory demonstrated the first evidence for neurotransmitter receptor turnover in the CNS and led to the major discovery that endogenous steroids of the brain act as selective modulators of the excitatory glutamate receptors, identifying novel targets for the modulation of cognitive function. His current research focuses on identifying novel targets in the hippocampal trisynaptic circuit that underlie prodromal memory dysfunction in Alzheimer’s Disease using cutting edge in vivo electrophysiology and computational analysis.

Prior to joining BU, Dr. Farb was a Fogarty Senior International Fellow with Sydney Brenner, PhD, in the Molecular Genetics Unit at the Medical Research Council, Cambridge University, UK. Dr. Farb was recruited to BUSM by Dean Aram V. Chobanian to develop a research intensive department of pharmacology & experimental therapeutics and to enhance medical and dental education in therapeutics. Dr. Farb previously taught neuroscience and neuroanatomy as Professor of Anatomy & Cell Biology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, head of the Molecular Pharmacology Research Program, and elected by SUNY faculty as Presiding Officer of the Graduate School. He was elected as Chair of Biological Sciences at the NY Academy of Sciences where he subsequently founded the Section of Neuroscience of the New York Academy of Sciences.

His early efforts at BU were instrumental in developing a system of faculty governance for the MD/PhD program with Associate Dean Carl Franzblau. Dr. Farb chaired the MD/PhD Executive Committee for 18 years, implementing many enhancements to benefit students. He also founded the Program in Biomedical Neuroscience at BUSM that subsequently merged with the CRC Program in Neuroscience to become the university-wide Graduate Program for Neuroscience. He founded and continues to direct the longstanding NIGMS supported T32 in BioMolecular Pharmacology, consistently funded for the past 24 years.

Dr. Farb also was a member of the founding Scientific Advisory Boards of CoCensys, DOV Pharmaceuticals, and SAGE Therapeutics. He holds nine U.S. patents, and one each in Australia and Japan. Dr. Farb pioneered technology development for high throughput electrophysiology and was the Scientific Founder of Scion Pharmaceuticals, which commercialized his patents on high throughput electrophysiology and small molecule modulators of amino acid receptors. High throughput electrophysiology is currently in use throughout the pharmaceutical industry for ion channel and receptor directed drug discovery.

His contributions on a variety of scientific, administrative and advisory committees at international, national, industrial, university and medical school levels has left its mark on the common practices now in place. Dr. Farb will continue his service on NIH study sections and on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy’s Licensure Advisory Committee. He is most proud of his efforts to recruit and mentor all of the faculty currently in the department, and his more than 21 PhD students and 40 postdoctoral fellows that have gone on to very successful careers in basic research, biotechnology, academic medicine, the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry.