Gary O. Rankin, PhD, is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University. Dr. Rankin received his PhD in Medicinal Chemistry and completed postdoctoral training in Pharmacology at the Medical College of Ohio (Toledo, OH) under the direction of Dr. Daniel Koechel, where he designed, synthesized and evaluated potential new diuretic agents.
Dr. Rankin was a founding member of the Department of Pharmacology at Marshall University and became Chair of the department in 1986. When the Pharmacology and Physiology departments were merged in 2005, he was appointed Chair of the new combined department. In 2016, all basic science departments were merged, and Dr. Rankin was appointed Chair of the new Department of Biomedical Sciences and named Vice Dean for Basic Sciences. He also served as Associate Dean for Biomedical Graduate Education and Research Development in 1989-1992.
Dr. Rankin’s research has primarily focused on the bioactivation of chemicals (drugs, agricultural agents, industrial intermediates) to metabolites that are toxic to the kidney. Some of the highlights of his work are:
- Structure-toxicity work on succinimide-based compounds, which demonstrated how structural modification can allow chemicals to be used as fungicides or anti-epileptic drugs while removing the risk of kidney toxicity.
- Discovery of a novel bioactivation pathway for succinimides that involves biotransformation of the succinimide in the liver to nephrotoxic sulfate and glucuronide conjugates which are carried by blood to the kidney where they accumulate and induce toxicity.
- Role of stereochemistry, gender differences and mechanisms of toxicity in succinimide-induced renal toxicity.
- Mechanisms of bioactivation and cellular toxicity of halogenated anilines, common intermediates in the synthesis of many compounds [including pharmaceuticals], and their metabolites.
His recent work has also focused on the role of nutritional agents and natural products as cancer chemotherapeutic agents and the role of pharmacogenetics in methadone death in humans. In the latter studies, Dr. Rankin, working with the Offices of the Medical Examiner of West Virginia and Kentucky, is exploring the role of genetic polymorphisms in cytochrome P450s (CYPs) [CYP2B6, CYP2D6 and CYP3A4] involved in methadone biotransformation as a causal factor in fatal methadone overdose in humans. These studies have revealed several CYP single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in CYP3A4 and one in CYP2B6 that may contribute to fatal methadone overdose.
In addition to his own research program, Dr. Rankin is the Principal Investigator of the NIH-funded West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (WV-INBRE) program (www.wv-inbre.net ). This program is designed to build a biomedical research network in West Virginia, improve the State’s biomedical research infrastructure, provide biomedical research opportunities for faculty and students at West Virginia’s universities and colleges, and help increase the number of undergraduate students entering the biomedical research and professional pipeline. Now in its 19th year of NIH funding, major improvements in the biomedical research activity in West Virginia have occurred and more than 900 undergraduate faculty and students have had training in areas of research ranging from cardiovascular disease and cancer research to molecular modeling of CYPs in drug metabolism, pharmacology and toxicology projects. Recently, Dr. Rankin created the WV-INBRE Center for Natural Products Research to assist West Virginia investigators in finding new chemotherapeutic drugs (cancer and antimicrobial) and has forged collaborations with investigators at the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi to aid this process. Collectively, Dr. Rankin has been the Principal Investigator on ~$73 million in grants from NIH and is listed by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research as the number 16th highest funded pharmacologist for 2018.
Dr. Rankin has published more than 180 peer-reviewed articles, many of them in top pharmacology and toxicology journals, and has served as an associate editor or member of the editorial board of several professional journals. He has also published 20 book chapters and regularly presents his research finding at the annual Society of Toxicology and Experimental Biology meetings, among other research meetings. He served as a regular member of two NIH study sections for toxicology (TOX1 and ALTOX4) and frequently serves as an ad hoc Chair of IDeA program grants for NIH. He recently served on a congressionally commissioned Institute of Medicine (IOM) review committee related to veteran’s care following exposure to water borne chemicals at Camp Lejeune, with the IOM report published in March, 2015.
Dr. Rankin feels a strong commitment to excellence in teaching pharmacology and has been awarded teaching awards by second year medical students five times, while his department has received the award for outstanding department in teaching numerous times. Some of his honors include election to the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honorary society in 1996; the Research Award from the American Heart Association, WV Affiliate; the first Meet-the-Scholar Award at Marshall University; and a national Faculty Salute Award. In 2013, he also received the second Joseph Sam Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Mississippi and was selected as an Honorary Alumnus of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine in 2018. Over the years, he has mentored numerous undergraduate, graduate, and medical students, as well as postdoctoral fellows and faculty members.
Dr. Rankin is also actively involved in leadership at the professional level, having served as Secretary and President of the Association of Medical School Pharmacology Chairs. He has been Secretary/Treasurer and President of the Mechanisms Specialty Section for the Society of Toxicology (SOT) and President of the Ohio Valley Chapter of SOT. He has served as the Council of Academic Societies representative to the Association of American Medical Colleges for the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) and the ASPET liaison to AAAS. In the past and again in 2015-2016, he served as Chair of the ASPET Division of Toxicology, and has served on several committees for ASPET after joining ASPET in 1985, including the Program Committee. Dr. Rankin received ASPET’s 2019 Toxicology Career Award.