Former Washington State University (WSU) faculty member Richard Okita, Ph.D., was recently honored in the naming of the Richard Okita Early Career Award in Drug Metabolism and Disposition. The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) celebrated the naming of its early career award on Tuesday April 9, 2019. The event took place as part of the 2019 ASPET Annual Meeting at the Experimental Biology conference in Orlando, Florida.

College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty and students with Dr. Richard Okita

The newly named award was established by the ASPET Division for Drug Metabolism and Disposition to recognize excellent original research conducted by early career investigators in the field of drug metabolism and disposition. It is awarded biennially to ASPET members nominated by at least two of their peers for research showing independence of thought, originality of approach, clarity of communication and an impact on the drug metabolism field.

Before his retirement in 2019, Okita served for more than 17 years as the program director in the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The NIGMS is also one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In his role Okita administered research grants in the areas of drug metabolism and transport, drug-induced toxicology and drug delivery. He also managed pharmacology and clinical pharmacology training grants and fellowships; conference and research awards; and the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative.

“Dr. Okita is the epitome of NIH program directors,” said Mary Paine, associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “I will be eternally grateful to him for his never-ending encouragement, advocacy, and sage advice.”

Prior to joining NIGMS in 2001, Okita was a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS) for 11 years. He also served as associate chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “Dick was one of us!” said CPPS Vice-Dean Linda Garrelts MacLean. “He was an important part of the college – both for students as well as his faculty colleagues.”