2012 UW Honorary Citation Report – Taylor

Citation recipient Dr. Palmer Taylor and Dean Jeanette Roberts

Citation recipient Dr. Palmer Taylor (left) and Dean Jeanette Roberts (right)

Dr. Palmer Taylor is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy, earning his BS in Pharmacy in 1960 and his PhD in Physical Pharmacy in 1964. After graduation, he gained additional experience as a research associate in the pharmacology-toxicology associate program. From 1968 to 1970, Palmer completed an NIH Fellowship with the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England, in the Molecular Pharmacology Unit. After a stop at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Germany, he joined the faculty at the University of California-San Diego, initially as an assistant professor, rising to Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Pharmacology there. Since 1994, Palmer has held the titles of Professor and Sandra and Monroe Trout Chair of Pharmacology. He has served as Dean of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences since 2002 as well as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences.

Palmer has a long-standing interest in neuropharmacology, especially the proteins governing neurotransmission in cholinergic synapses. He and his colleagues worked extensively on the structure and function of the enzyme, acetylcholinesterase, and its inhibitors and reactivators for over three decades. His efforts have entailed characterizing the enzyme forms, cloning its complementary DNA and genomic DNA, examining expression and splicing, analyzing structure by physical and crystallographic methods, and characterizing inhibition and reactivation kinetics. His work provided the basis for studies with Barry Sharpless’ group at the Scripps Research Institute employing freeze-frame, click-chemistry that we had the opportunity to hear about in a seminar earlier this afternoon.  Palmer’s research group also uncovered much of what is known about the structure of neuroligin, a synaptic adhesion molecule homologous to acetylcholinesterase, and its binding partner neurexin. Their structural studies have delineated alterations in processing and folding associated with congenital mutations found in the autism spectrum disorders. These pathways suggest potential therapeutic modalities for this very difficult developmental condition.

Palmer has published some 240 peer-reviewed papers on these topics and has also served as associate editor of Molecular Pharmacology, co-author and co-editor of Goodman and Gilman’s Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, and has served on the editorial board of several pharmaceutical journals. He also served on NIH National Advisory Councils for both the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. He has always been active in national scientific organizations and was elected President of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in 1995.