Université de Strasbourg

Inaugural lecture Paul Ehrlich Chair - The brain on opiates: for better and for worse

June 1, 2023
From 14:00 until 15:00
Salle de conférence, MISHA, Strasbourg

By Brigitte Kieffer, USIAS Paul Ehrlich Chair 2022-2024

With an introduction by Jean-Louis Mandel, IGBMC, USIAS Chair of Human Genetics

Opium, originating from Papaver Somniferum, has been used for thousands of years to relieve pain. Morphine, the active ingredient in opium and the prototype of "opiates", is an extraordinarily powerful painkiller, but also a particularly addictive substance.


Advances in neuroscience have made it possible to identify receptors in the brain that respond to opiates, to understand how opiates usurp natural neurotransmitters that are essential to our functioning, and to gain insight into why opiate use progressively induces significant and irreversible brain dysfunction. 

The history of opiate receptor research is also a model, through which we discover the saga of the spectacular evolution of technologies and discoveries in neuroscience over three decades.

Finally, this research raises a major medical question, namely whether it is possible to treat pain effectively without creating dependence, and addresses the major societal challenge of opioid addiction.

Brigitte Kieffer

This lecture is the inaugural lecture of the Paul Ehrlich Chair at USIAS. It is intended for a broad audience, who will be invited to learn about the subject from a pioneering researcher working at the foreront of research. The lecture will be held in English.

It will be followed by the inaugural lecture of the Marc Bloch Chair, Egyptologist Frédéric Colin, From sandy Bahariya to the gilded court of Thebes - see the full event programme.


The Paul Ehrlich Chair in the life sciences was created in 2022, as one of three temporary chair positions with a duration of two years, for Strasbourg-based researchers who have made an exceptional contribution to their field. The Chair is named in honour of Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915), a German physician and scientist who studied in Strasbourg and is widely recognized for his research on haematology, immunology and pharmacology. Known as the father of chemotherapy, he was awarded the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions to immunology. 

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