James Cook

University Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Dr. James Cook is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). He received a BS in Chemistry with Honors from West Virginia University in 1967. He received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry working with Professor Phillip LeQuesne at The University of Michigan from 1968-1971. In 1973, he joined the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as an Assistant Professor in Organic Chemistry and was promoted to University Distinguished Professor in 2002. He is a leading expert in GABA-A receptor drug targeting and has published over 550 papers in the fields of Natural Products, Medicinal Chemistry, and Organic Synthesis. He is the recipient of the UW-System Innovator Award and the UW-Milwaukee Innovator Award and has filed over 90 patents, many of which have been issued. As the original designer of the GABAkines licensed to RespireRx Pharmaceuticals, his group synthesized a series of benzodiazepine subtype-selective agents for pharmaco-resistant epilepsy and chronic pain that are devoid of tolerance, sedation, and ataxia in preclinical tests to circumvent the opioid epidemic. He also cofounded Promentis Pharmaceuticals with Dr. David Baker and Dr. John Mantsch at Marquette University, which has a drug in Phase II clinical trials for the chronic mental illness Trichotillomania. His research collaboration with Dr. Etienne Sibille and Dr. Tom Prevot at The Center for Addiction and Brain Health at the University of Toronto has led to licensing alpha5 selective agents to a startup company (Damona Pharmaceuticals) with investment funds targeted toward depression and Alzheimer’s disease. More recently, his group developed alpha 6 selective agents that are active in animal models of trigeminal orofacial pain and Tourette syndrome and are, to date, devoid of side effects. In addition to his contributions to drug design for treating a wide spectrum of neurological diseases, he has also made significant contributions to drug development around asthma and some cancers (glioblastoma, melanoma, and non-small cell lung cancer). This IP has been used to start a company (Panthergics, Inc) by his colleagues Dr. Doug Stafford and Dr. Alexander Arnold for asthma and to cofound another company (Amlal Pharmaceuticals) with Dr. Soma Sengupta and Dr. Daniel Krummel aimed at clinical development for cancer. In summary, Dr. James Cook has spent his career designing drugs to address an incredibly broad scope of patient-critical disorders, leveraging both his deep knowledge of chemistry and neuroscience and strong academic and industry partnerships.