Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD
Drexel University College of Medicine
Professor & Chair, Department of Pharmacology & Physiology
Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology
Olimpia Meucci is Professor and Chair of Pharmacology and Physiology and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Drexel University College of Medicine. She received her MD and PhD (Neuropsychopharmacology, 1987/1994) from the University of Naples, Italy. She also received additional training in neuroendocrinology and neurophysiology in the USA – i.e. the University of Virginia in 1985 (Dept. of Medicine, PI: Robert MacLeod, PhD) and the National Institutes of Health, NICHD in 1986 (PI: Julius Axelrod, PhD) and 1991 (PI: James T. Russel, PhD). After completing her residency and PhD (1994) she was awarded a fellowship from the Italian Association for Research in Neurology to study cellular mechanisms of neurotoxicity and joined the laboratory of Richard J. Miller, PhD at the University of Chicago, where she received further postdoctoral training in neuropharmacology and cell signaling. At the time she was supported by the Italian Minister of Public Health to conduct research on HIV-induced neuronal damage; this led to her future interests in neuroimmunology and neurovirology and her long-lasting involvement with neuroAIDS research. In 1996 Dr. Meucci was appointed Research Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neurobiology at the University of Chicago. In the fall of 2000 she accepted a tenure-track faculty position in the Dept. of Pharmacology and Physiology at her current institution where she was awarded tenure in 2008. She received her first R01 as PI in 2001 and her research has been continuously funded by NIDA; she also received support from other NIH institutes (NIGMS, NIMH, NCI) and national/local private organizations (AmFAR, WW Smith Charitable Trust). In addition to research, she is involved in education of medical and graduate students, mentoring of junior faculty, and various administrative services. As a faculty of the Drexel University College of Medicine, she is a member of the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease (IMMID). In 2010 she was nominated Director of the Center of Neuroimmunology and CNS Therapeutics, one of the branches of the IMMID. From 2013 to 2016, she also served as Deputy Director of Drexel’s Clinical and Translational Institute.
Research in the Meucci lab still focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of HIV neuropathology, including the role of chemokines in neuronal survival and function, neuronal/glial communication, and the interaction between chemokine and opioid system. Her group pioneered studies on neuroprotective effects of specific chemokine/receptor pairs on neuronal and glial cells (PNAS 1998 and PNAS 2000) and recently demonstrated a novel link between µ-opioid receptors and the chemokine receptor CXCR4 with important implications to HAND (J. Clin. Invest. 2014; JNS 2015). Current efforts in her laboratory aim to further characterize the functional consequences of this interaction as well as to develop strategies to exploit therapeutically the neuroprotective role of these chemokines. Additional interdisciplinary programs in her lab concern the role of chemokines in cancer.
Dr. Meucci is an active member of different international scientific societies, including SNIP, AAAS, ISNV, and SfN, and currently serves as the Communications Committee Chair of the Society on Neuroimmune Pharmacology. She served on the NAED review panel (2012-2016) and as ad-hoc reviewer for different NIH study sections (2003-present). Over the years, she received a number of research awards in recognition of her successful research program – such as the “Excellence in Research Award” from Drexel University for two consecutive years (2002, 2003) and the “2011 Basic Research Award”, awarded to established investigators for their significant contribution to the College of Medicine. Most notably, she was awarded the MERIT award from the NIH/NIDA in 2018. She coauthored over 80 peer-reviewed manuscripts, mostly in high impact journals, and numerous book chapters; mentored/co-mentored 50 students and post-doctoral fellows; is on the Editorial Board of JNIP and other journals, an Editor for NPG Scientific Reports, and she recently edited a book for Springer entitled “Chemokine receptors and neuroAIDS: beyond co-receptor function and links to other neuropathologies”. In 2011, she was selected as one of 54 women nationwide to participate in the prestigious “Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM)” program, a highly competitive international program dedicated to preparing senior women faculty at schools of medicine, dentistry, and public health to effect sustained positive change as institutional leaders. Since her graduation from ELAM (2012) she has invested much of her energy into initiatives that aim to strengthen the biomedical research enterprise and ultimately increase the rate at which scientific discoveries turn into meaningful clinical outcomes.