Faculty Mentors

Kathryn A. Cunningham, PhD

Chauncey Leake Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology

Director, Center for Addiction Research

Vice Chair, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

University of Texas Medical Branch

Dr. Cunningham and her team have made multiple contributions to our understanding of the neuropsychopharmacology of abused drugs and psychotherapeutics, the underlying neurobiology of behavior, and new target and drug discovery in neuropsychiatric conditions. With established strengths in pharmacology and neuroscience, Dr. Cunningham focuses on advancing the biological understanding of disorders with an addictive dimensionality (e.g., drug addiction, binge eating disorder, obesity) and developing effective and safe therapeutics to maximize human function. A primary focus is our cross-disciplinary, translational research efforts with medicinal and synthetic chemists, cell biologists, neuropharmacologists, and clinical scientists to pinpoint the critical roles of two serotonin proteins (5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors) in cocaine use disorder and the discovery of novel serotonergic medications to extend abstinence. Dr. Cunningham’s research has been funded continuously by NIH for 26 years, has led to three patents for new chemical entities, 118 peer-reviewed publications in high-quality journals and 29 reviews, chapters and commentaries. She has cultivated and sustained a life-long commitment to fostering the career development of new scientists with over 45 mentees who have crafted successful careers in academia, industry and government. Her research and educational contributions have been recognized by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics-Astellas Award for Translational Pharmacology as well as the Marian Fischman Memorial Award and the Mentorship Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence. Dr. Cunningham is currently Associate Editor of ACS Chemical Neuroscience and Associate Editor of Nature Neuropsychopharmacology. She is an active educator, mentor and board member for community programs, secondary/high schools and colleges in the region. 

 Selected Publications:  

Cunningham, K. A., Gubner, N. R., Vick, K., Herting, J. R., & Walker, S. C. (2022). Redesigning Juvenile Probation to Align With Behavioral Health and Positive Development Principles: A Quasi-Experimental Study. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 00938548221082997.

Ezeomah, C., Cunningham, K. A., Stutz, S. J., Fox, R. G., Bukreyeva, N., Dineley, K. T., … & Cisneros, I. E. (2020). Fentanyl self-administration impacts brain immune responses in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 87, 725-738. PMID: 32165150.  

Wild, C.T.,* Miszkiel, J.M.,* Wold, E.A., Soto, C.A., Ding, C., Hartley, R.M., White, M.A., Anastasio, N.C.*, Cunningham, K.A.,* and Zhou, J.* Design, synthesis, and characterization of 4-undecylpiperidine-2-carboxamides as selective positive allosteric modulators of the serotonin 5-HT2C receptor. J. Med. Chem., 2018 Apr 13. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.8b00401. PMID: 29620897; PMCID: PMC6533912. *Authors contributed equally to this study