The worldwide opioid crisis has occasioned efforts to develop new opioids for both existing uses (pain control) as well as new indications (itch, addiction). We have focused on the discovery of compounds able to selectively activate one of the two main intracellular pathways associated with the kappa opioid receptor. This type of activity, called “functional selectivity” or “ligand bias”, has the potential to segregate many of the ultimate biological effects of therapeutic opioids.
This project is an effort of a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional team led by the speaker and Professor Laura Bohn of the Scripps Research Institute.[1,2] It began with the development of a speculative library for screening against a range of potential biological targets based on a known but underexplored isoquinolinone synthesis. Applying this chemistry to library synthesis led to a hit compound that stoked our interest in biased ligand discovery, ultimately leading to the discovery of Triazole 1.1, a strongly biased KOR agonist with a fascinating in vitro and in vivo profile. These efforts and recent results will be described.
 Bohn, L.M.; Aubé, J. ACS Med. Chem. Lett, 2017, 8, 694–700.
 Brust, T. F.; Morgenweck, J.; Kim, S. A.; Rose, J. H.; Locke, J. L.; Schmid, C. L.; Zhou, L.; Stahl, E. L.; Cameron, M. D.; Scarry, S. M.; Aubé, J.; Jones, S. R.; Martin, T. J.; Bohn, L. M. Biased Agonists of the Kappa Opioid Receptor Suppress Pain and Itch Without Causing Sedation or Dysphoria. Sci. Signal. 2016, 9, ra117.
Jeffrey Aubé attended the University of Miami, where he did undergraduate research with Professor Robert Gawley (with whom he later co-authored the graduate text “Principles of Asymmetric Synthesis”, currently in its second edition). He received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1984 from Duke University, working with Professor Steven Baldwin, and was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Yale University with Professor Samuel Danishefsky. From 1986 until 2015, he held a faculty position in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas. In 2015, he retired from KU and moved to the University of North Carolina, where he is an Eshelman Distinguished Professor in the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry. In addition to holding a joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry, Aubé is a member of the Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery and the Lineberger Cancer Center.
Aubé’s research interests lie in the chemistry of heterocyclic compounds and their applications to problems in medicinal organic chemistry. The lab’s interests in bioorganic chemistry include collaborations in the area of opioid pharmacology (with Laura Bohn), steroid biosynthesis inhibitors (with Emily Scott), and in the discovery of anti-Mtb agents (with Carl Nathan). Aubé served as the principal investigator of the Chemical Methodology and Library Development Center program at Kansas as well as a specialized chemistry lab in the NIH’s Molecular Libraries Initiative.
Aubé has been honored for his research and scholarship by his receipt of awards from the American Chemical Society (including the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award and the Midwest Award, bestowed by the St. Louis Section of the ACS) and for teaching (including the university-wide HOPE Award and the Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence at KU). He is a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society.