Candace Pert (1946-2013)
Manhattan, New York, USA
Digital Illustration, 24" x 32", 2022
While working on her pharmacology doctorate at John Hopkins University, Candace Pert began looking at the effects of drugs on the brain, particularly the drug morphine. Pert had an idea. Going against her advisor’s wishes, she injected morphine with a radioactive atom into brain tissue. She then looked to see what the morphine bonded to. The following day, Pert’s results identified the first opiate receptor in the brain. This was huge for the neuroscience community. Her advisor, Solomon H. Snyder later won the prestigious Lasker Ward in 1978 for Pert’s discovery. As she was just a graduate student, Pert’s name was excluded.
While working at the National Institute of Mental Health, Pert discovered that she could isolate receptors for the drugs PCP and Valium. This was the first identification of peptide T and would be used as a therapy treatment for HIV/neuroAIDS infections.
Pert would go on to publish two books and over 250 scientific articles on peptides. She took necessary time away from her career on multiple occasions to work as a waitress and raise her three children so her husband could earn his doctorate. With pride, she campaigned for her theories of mind-body connection. Before her death in 2013 at age 67, Pert advocated for women in science and fought to find treatments for autism, HIV, and Alzheimer’s disease.