David H. Farb, Ph.D.

Professor of Pharmacology, Physiology & Biophysics; Director of the NIGMS Training Program in BioMolecular Pharmacology

Principal Investigator, Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology

David H. Farb, Ph.D., was appointed Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University (BU) Medical Campus on July 1, 1990.  After founding the NIGMS Training Program in BioMolecular Pharmacology at BU, and 26 years of continuous funding from NIGMS, Dr. Farb decided to return to research to pursue his interests in neural-circuitry-level drug discovery. He stepped down from the department chair position on December 15, 2022, and continues to work full-time in research, teaching, and service as Director of the university-wide NIGMS training program in Biomolecular Pharmacology. He has also served as a member of the Drug Development Work Group of Mass Insight, co-author of the Massachusetts Technology Road Map for Drug Discovery, and a consultant for a number of small to large pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and patent litigation companies. For the past 9 years he has represented the academic community of Massachusetts as an expert in clinical pharmacology on the Board of Pharmacy’s Licensure Advisory Committee and the Sub Committee on Adverse Events in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

As head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, he focuses on the identification of pharmacological treatments for disorders of learning and memory function. His research integrates existing electrophysiological, behavioral, pharmacological, and molecular genetic technologies in a novel systems-level platform for assessing the impact of cognitive enhancers such as neuroactive steroids upon fundamental hippocampal systems for pattern separation (encoding), and pattern completion (retrieval), that are believed to be essential for cognition in all mammals, including man. Deficits in aspects of episodic memory dependent on hippocampal function are evident in a variety of mental disorders, including schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s Disease, and normal aging. Existing pharmacotherapies are limited and carry substantial risk of adverse effects.

The Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology has a strong history of using a multidisciplinary approach that includes electrophysiological techniques combined with classic behavioral and molecular biological methods to investigate the mechanisms and modalities of novel therapeutics and advance the treatment of disorders and diseases of the nervous system.

In search of more effective approaches to drug discovery, high-density in vivo electrophysiological recordings in awake freely behaving rats are presently being used in the Farb Laboratory to identify changes in hippocampal function that underlie cognitive deficits due to aging and disease and, to assess for the functional neural network correlates associated with effective therapeutics. Dr. Farb and the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology are among the researchers and laboratories that comprise the Boston University Center for Systems Neuroscience.

The use of nanoparticles encapsulating hydrophilic or hydrophobic molecules is being explored for delivery of drugs across the blood brain barrier. Nanoparticle composition is being engineered to facilitate better delivery of drugs to specific target sites. Neuroactive drugs and proteins, biomarkers for novel diagnostics, sensitive dyes for neural mapping, and many other applications of nanoparticles are envisioned. The major advantage of this technique is the noninvasive delivery of molecules to the CNS via a peripheral injection.

Lab Page