Monday, June 5, 2017

The College of Pharmacy welcomed Ryan Smith, PhD, as an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics, last month. After receiving his bachelor’s in psychology from The Ohio State University, he went on to earn his PhD in neuroscience from OSU; rising through the ranks to research assistant professor before leaving to join Eli Lilly and Company in 2014. At Lilly, he was responsible for genetics and biomarker discovery for patient tailoring for their pain portfolio.

Broadly, Smith’s research experiences are in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience, human genetics, drug addiction, neuropsychiatric disorders, pain, and drug development. He currently works with cross-functional teams of clinicians, scientists, bioinformaticians, and statisticians using genetic information to understand disease and identify new drug targets.

“I have always been fascinated by the brain and behavior, which led me to study cognition as an undergraduate psychology major. Over the years, my research has become more mechanistically focused in the brain, ultimately drilling down to the level of which genes or genetic variants are important for manifesting a behavior,” he explained. “If I can understand this, I can turn the question around in an attempt to develop therapeutics targeting these genes that can modify these behaviors.”

Smith is enthusiastic about the diversity of the expertise in his new department. “At Lilly, I learned just how difficult it is to pursue a legitimate drug discovery effort and the diversity of expertise that is required. I saw this department has the right pieces I will need to achieve my long-term goals in this area,” he said.

He also was drawn to the University of Iowa for the emphasis he saw on maintaining a healthy work-life balance and family-friendly atmosphere, as well the value place on the role of younger faculty in promoting the institution’s long-term goals. He looks forward to the opportunity to collaborate with faculty across multiple departments in the future.

Smith’s wife, Erin, and three children are looking forward to putting down roots in Iowa. He is also a hockey fan and plays regularly.