"Think big, then think bigger": How Greg Gerhardt, PhD, conducts innovative neuroscience research at UK
Greg Gerhardt, PhD, is a professor of neuroscience and researcher with the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center (SCoBIRC) and Brain Restoration Center, as well as advisor for the MD/PhD program. He currently serves as co-principal investigator for the Brain Restoration Alliance in Neurodegeneration (BRAIN). We recently caught up with Gerhardt about his current projects.
Why did you want to pursue a career in neuroscience research?
My grandfather had epilepsy and died of a brain tumor before I was born. It inspired me to study the brain when I started college. From there, I had great mentors that inspired me even more.
What are some of the research projects you’re currently involved in?
I’m currently working on two phase I clinical trials on a cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease. I’m also working on studies of glutamate in rodent models of normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease, novel plant-based drug development for treating of drug addiction, and development of novel plant-based drugs that can affect alpha-synuclein protein aggregation in Parkinson’s disease.
You’re involved in the MD/PhD program here at UK. How can a learner benefit from obtaining this combined degree? And how does it set them apart?
My lab focuses on translation of basic science concepts and new ideas to clinical applications for improved healthcare. As such, the combined degree is powerful for the modern clinician who wants to be involved with translational research.
What are some of the proudest moments of your career?
The formation and direction of the Morris K. Udall Parkinson’s Disease Research Center of Excellence that was funded by NIH from 1999-2012 – one of 11 in the U.S. in 1999.
This formed the basis for our current Brain Restoration Center also now known as the BRAIN Alliance.
In addition, I’m proud of our most recent clinical trials that have recruited and treated 75 patients with Parkinson’s disease.
When the students you teach leave UK, what do you hope they take away from their experience?
I try to teach them to think big, and then think bigger to achieve the next great discoveries in the neurosciences.