Moving Targets Symposium Focuses on Pain Management

The 17th annual Moving Targets symposium on Friday, Aug. 17 focused on current breakthroughs in the field of pain medicine, with an emphasis on combating the opioid crisis. (Photo by Isaac Mora)

By Linda Wang

With the theme of pain management, the 17th annual Moving Targets symposium on Friday, Aug. 17 focused on current breakthroughs in the field of pain medicine, with an emphasis on combating the opioid crisis.

The USC student chapter of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) presents this day-long research symposium each year, giving students a platform to engage with leading scientific experts. More than 200 graduate and undergraduate students, faculty members, health care professionals and policymakers attended the 2018 event for a day of interdisciplinary dialogue.

Dr. Rosalie Pacula of RAND Corporation’s Bing Center for Health Economics, whose research focuses on the effectiveness of policy interventions aimed at combating illicit drug behaviors, was the keynote speaker. Other speakers included Dr. Kim Janda, who spoke about an anti-heroin vaccine; Dr. Brian Schoichet, who spoke about developing an opioid product with reduced addictive potential; Dr. Scott Mosley, whose research focuses on optimizing drug selection through the use of genetic information; and Dr. Melissa Durham, who spoke from the perspective of a pharmacist in a clinical setting.

Keynote speaker Rosalie Pacula, director of RAND Corporation’s Bing Center for Health Economics, talked about the need for a comprehensive solution to the opioid epidemic. (Photo by Isaac Mora)

The AAPS-USC student organizing committee was led by Chair Christian Rabot with Vice Chair Alicia Warnecke, Secretary Kabir Ahluwalia, Treasurer Lucas Gutierrez, Social Chair Eva Severado, and Communications C0-Chairs Jiawen (Lyn) Yang and Xin (Fish) Yu. Assistant Professor Houda Alachkar served as faculty advisor.

Finding solutions to a national epidemic

This year’s theme of pain management is a timely topic as the devastating consequences of the opioid epidemic consistently dominate national headlines.

“Pain currently affects more people in the U.S. than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined,” said event chair Christian Rabot, a second-year PhD student in the USC School of Pharmacy’s pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences program. “The development of medications with reduced addictive potential and an improved understanding of opioid prescription and policy trends is a pressing issue in today’s society.”

Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos of the USC School of Pharmacy echoed this sentiment, adding that pain management affects all layers of society.

“There is much to be done – reducing the burden of suffering from pain, while containing the rising toll of harms related to opioid use,” Papadopoulos said. “Research should focus not just on discovery, but on impact.”

In addition to networking opportunities, student attendees were also able to take their research work out of the lab and present their projects in a poster competition for cash prizes.

Student attendees presented their research in a poster competition. (Photo by Isaac Mora)

For more information, visit www.movingtargets.la.