Biology Professor Emmanuel Onaivi Awarded Grant from the National Institutes of Health to Provide New Insights on Use of Cannabinoid Products

Professor Emmanuel Onaivi

Emmanuel Onaivi, a professor of biology at William Paterson University, has been awarded a three-year, $412,202 grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to study the behavioral effects associated with the modulation of CB2 cannabinoid receptors, one of two types of cannabinoid in the human body that are activated by cannabis use. The research will provide a model to screen cannabinoids and classes of drugs for conditions of neuro-immune disorders.

There is increasing global awareness and interest in the use of cannabinoid products to treat many diseases. The grant will help scientists understand their role in immune modulation and thereby reveal novel therapeutic targets. A specific aim of the project is to engage William Paterson students in biomedical research.

“I am delighted that Dr. Onaivi’s original research is further validated with this prestigious and highly competitive grant,” says Venkat Sharma, dean of the College of Science and Health, who also serves as consultant on the grant. “Funding for this cutting-edge research has ensured that we will provide high-quality undergraduate research experience to our students as part of their experiential learning.”

Onaivi is a neurobiologist whose area of research and specialization involves the molecular biology of drug abuse. His research led to the discovery of functional neuronal type 2 cannabinoid receptors in the mammalian brain. Studies on the role of these cannabinoid receptors are less understood. This prestigious grant continues to provide support to ongoing studies on understanding the behavioral effects of CB2 cannabinoid receptors.

Onaivi and his collaborator, Dr. Quing-Rong Liu, researcher at the National Institute on Aging, and William Paterson University filed for a patent in the United States and other countries based on this research, which would mark the first patent for the University.

Onaivi has been a member of the William Paterson faculty since 2000, a guest researcher at the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, and Honorary Professor at the School of Pharmacy, College of Health Science, Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He regularly includes both undergraduate and graduate students in his research.

His research has been published in many peer review journals including the Journal of Psychopharmacology and Nature Scientific Report.  Onaivi and Sharma wrote an editorial, “Cannabis for COVID-19: Can cannabinoids quell the cytokine storm?” which was published in the journal Future Science OA.

A graduate of the University of Benin, Nigeria, Onaivi earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Bradford, England.