Norbert E. Kaminski, PhD, has received the 2020 SOT Merit Award for his sustained and highly influential contributions to the discipline of toxicology.
After receiving his PhD in toxicology and physiology from North Carolina State University in 1985, Dr. Kaminski conducted his postdoctoral training at the Medical College of Virginia and then advanced first to Research Instructor and then to Assistant Professor. Thereafter, Dr. Kaminski took a position as an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, where he currently serves as a Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Dr. Kaminski also is the Director of the Institute for Integrative Toxicology (IIT) and the Center for Research on Ingredient Safety, both at Michigan State University.
Dr. Kaminski’s research involves molecular mechanisms of immunotoxicology, particularly those by which cannabinoids alter immune competence; his laboratory discovered cannabinoid receptor expression within cells of the immune system. His work also involves investigating B cell development and differentiation and its impairment by halogenated hydrocarbons, and he has contributed greatly to the understanding of activation of lymphoid cells resulting in the upregulation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor. Within the past decade, Dr. Kaminski has focused on developing functional, biochemical, and molecular assays employing primary human leukocytes to identify immune-modulating agents and the mechanisms by which they mediate their activity.
The Kaminski laboratory has been continuously funded for more than three decades through grants from the National Institutes of Health, US Environmental Protection Agency, and industry. Notably, in his role as IIT Director, Dr. Kaminski has coordinated research efforts across institutions to secure two successful competing renewals for the Superfund Research Program.
Dr. Kaminski has served as an advisor to numerous predoctoral, master’s, and postdoctoral scholars, many of whom have been highly awarded—a testament to Dr. Kaminski’s commitment and excellence in toxicology instruction. Dr. Kaminski also furthers toxicological understanding through regular speaking engagements as well as chairing Symposia and Workshops during scientific meetings.
In addition to his rich publication history—which includes approximately 150 hypothesis-driven peer-reviewed papers and 25 reviews or book chapters—Dr. Kaminski co-authored the chapter on “Toxic Responses of the Immune System” in the seventh, eighth, and ninth editions of Casarett and Doull’s Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons, the leading text in toxicology graduate studies. He also has served on numerous journal Editorial Boards throughout his career, including his current role as a member of the Editorial Board of Toxicology.
Dr. Kaminski has been active within SOT since he joined the membership in 1983. He served as Treasurer from 2005 to 2007 and was the 2014–2015 SOT President. He is a past Chair of the Endowment Fund Board and Finance Committee and a current member of the Michigan Regional Chapter, Food Safety Specialty Section, and Immunotoxicology Specialty Section.
EDITOR’S SIDEBAR: Merit Award Lecture at the SOT 59th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo
Dr. Norbert E. Kaminski will deliver the Merit Award Lecture on Monday, March 16, 2020, from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm in Ballroom A of the Anaheim Convention Center. The topic of Dr. Kaminski’s lecture is “Unraveling the Molecular Mechanisms of Cannabinoid-Mediated Immune Modulation and Cannabinoid Receptor 2 as a Putative Therapeutic Target.” The lecture abstract is as follows:
The term cannabinoid encompasses a broad family of molecules, including plant (cannabis)–derived, synthetic, and endogenous compounds possessing diverse biological activities. Indeed, cannabis alone possesses over 100 structurally related cannabinoids, most of which have yet to be studied to any extent. The majority of attention during the past 50 years has focused on the primary psychotropic constituent in cannabis, ∆9 -tetrahydrocannabinol, and very recently cannabidiol, both of which can influence immune function. A focus of the Kaminski laboratory has been on defining the profile of immune activity by cannabinoids and elucidating the molecular mechanisms mediating cannabinoid immune modulation. A significant advancement in the field came with the identification and cloning of two G-protein coupled cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, and the establishment of their expression on leukocytes. Identification of cannabinoid receptors quickly led to the discovery of endogenous cannabinoid receptor ligands, raising questions concerning their physiological role, including in immune regulation. An important backdrop to cannabinoid research has been the prevalence of cannabis use, with an estimated 37 million adult users in the US and likely increasing with recent trends toward legalization of recreational consumption. Likewise, medical use of cannabis and cannabidiol has also increased significantly, with many questions about the benefits remaining unanswered. Finally, expression of cannabinoid receptors within the immune system, coupled with the absence of CB2 within the CNS, provides a putative drug target for cannabinoid-mediated immune modulation devoid of psychotropic activity. This presentation will discuss the molecular mechanisms by which cannabinoids modulate the immune system, as well as putative health implications and CB2 as a putative therapeutic target for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.