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Alumni Interview

Horace Loh, Ph.D.


65PhD biochemistry

An internationally respected investigator and educator who made significant and fundamental contributions to the understanding of neurochemical mechanisms of opioids--major pain killers with addictive potential; Dr. Loh is currently a professor and head of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota.

Horace Loh, a pioneer in exploring the biochemical mechanisms of morphine addiction, jokes that he has been “hooked on” his work for more than 40 years. Loh’s career has focused on the fundamental aspects of opioid drug action, particularly morphine, and has expanded knowledge about the neurochemical mechanisms of narcotic addiction and its treatment potential.

Loh, a native of China, came to Iowa from Taiwan in1960 after seeing the success of his friend, Yuan Chuan Lee 62PhD biochemistry, who received the UI Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement in 2004. “He did so well that the Department of Biochemistry decided to enroll more Chinese students,” Loh said. “I benefited from his success.”

After earning his PhD, Loh went to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) for post-doctoral training. Working with biochemical pharmacologist E. Leong Way, PhD, now an emeritus professor of pharmacology at UCSF, Loh discovered his interest in opioids and continued that work for the next 20 years as a faculty member in the UCSF psychiatry and pharmacology departments. In 1989, he left California to head the University of Minnesota’s Department of Pharmacology.

Loh’s scientific contributions have been numerous and varied, but have always focused on the fundamental aspects of opioid drug action. His research has provided basic knowledge about narcotic addiction as well as the molecular nature of opioid receptors and its gene structures, and the pharmacology and functions of endogenous opioid peptides.

Loh has held leadership positions in professional organizations, including several NIH study sections and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and helped found the Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America. He currently serves as scientific advisor to the national governments of Taiwan and China and the regional government of Hong Kong.

Throughout his career, Loh has received several major awards in his field. He counts the UI Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement among them.

“I feel very honored to be recognized by the school where I was trained,” he said. “This is more close to my heart than all the other awards I’ve received. It’s very special, and I’m very grateful.”

The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor that the UI Carver College of Medicine bestows upon its outstanding graduates. Established in 1998, this awards program recognizes our former students and colleagues who have transcended their fundamental roles as health care providers, scientists and educators to become influential participants in the advancement of the art and science of medicine. Excellence in these areas brings pride and distinction to The University of Iowa and our Carver College of Medicine.


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