Stephen Martin, Professor of Chemistry and the M. June and J. Virgil Waggoner Regents Chair in Chemistry, has been named the Gund-Harrington Scholar for 2019 by the Harrington Discovery Institute and the Foundation Fighting Blindness. This award is made annually through a competitive selection process to innovative scientists and physician-scientists, whose research has the potential to advance medical therapies for those suffering from retinal degenerative diseases with the ultimate goal of improving or restoring vision. Martin will conduct this translational research program in collaboration with two vision specialists, Professor Rong Wen, who is at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami, and Professor Abbot Clark, who directs the North Texas Eye Research Institute at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
One area of Martin's research focuses on the design and development of novel modulators of transmembrane protein 97 (TMEM97) to address unmet medical needs in neuroscience. Previous work from his laboratories have resulted in identifying TMEM97 modulators that are efficacious in animal models of Alzheimer's disease, neuropathic pain, alcohol use disorder, and traumatic brain injury. His unpublished, ground breaking finding that small molecule modulators of TMEM97, which has never been associated with retinal degenerative conditions, protect retinal ganglion cells and photoreceptors pioneered the discoveries that led to this award. Early stages of his research in chemistry at the interface of neuroscience was funded by a Texas Health Catalyst Grant and the BrightFocus Foundation.
Martin has also received recognition for his extensive work in synthetic and natural products chemistry with a number of other awards, including the 2017 Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products and the 2013 International Society of Heterocyclic Chemistry (ISHC) Senior Award.