Brief History

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of neuroimmune pharmacological research, the roots of research in this area are quite diverse. Therefore, this brief historical perspective does not trace every such root in detail. The main root that nourished the evolution of The Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology (SNIP), and the conferences in this area that it sponsors, is connected to studies aimed at defining the ability of drugs of abuse to modulate immune function. Research on the immunological effects of drugs of abuse spans the entire 20th century. However, it was at the dawn of the 1980's that seminal reports by Drs. Joseph Wybran (J. Immunol. 123:1068, 1979), A. Lopker (Bioch. Pharmacol. 29:1361, 1980), and Robert McDonough (J. Immunol. 125:2539, 1980) planted the seeds that allowed for expansive growth; and it was in 1982 that the first NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH) grant in this area of research was awarded to Dr. Arthur Falek of Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Growth of the field was advanced also by a concurrent, broad, general interest in the early 80s in understanding the interconnections between immunology and neurobiology.

In 1983, interest in neuro-immuno-pharmacological research was promoted significantly by the emerging realization that opiate addicts are both reservoirs for, and transmitters of AIDS. This fact prompted NIDA to sponsor their first of many technical reviews in the area, "Drugs and Altered Immune Function". It was held at NIDA headquarters in the fall of 1983 and chaired by Dr. Monique Braude. Subsequently, various other societies and NIH institutes picked-up on this theme, including it into their conferences and grant solicitations. A selected chronology of major meetings held through the 1980's that disseminated work in this area includes: 1983 - American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; 1984 - the Committee (now College) on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD); 1984 and 1986 - the 1st and 2nd International Workshops on Neuroimmunomodulation; 1987 - The Gordon Conference in Santa Barbara, CA.

Since 1986, continuity of dissemination of information in this field was maintained, principally, by the CPDD. They annually held symposia on neuro-immune-pharmacology and also co-sponsored the earliest SNIP Satellite Conferences, starting in 1992. Continuity was also advanced by Drs. Herman Friedman, Thomas Klein and Steven Spector of the University of South Florida, who organized the first full-fledged conferences in the field, in 1989 and 1992. Also, the PsychoNeuroImmunological Research Society (PNIRS), the Society on Neuroimmunomodulation (NIM), the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) and the Alcohol-Immunology Working-Group have all held symposia in the field over the past decade.

The main root underlying the formation of the Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology, in fact, connects directly to the 1992-meeting of the CPDD. Symposia participants at this meeting formed a conference organizing committee spearheaded by Drs. Burt Sharp (University of Tennessee, Memphis), John Madden and Robert Donahoe (Emory University, Atlanta), and Martin Adler (Temple University, Philadelphia, PA). With major contributions from Drs. Thomas Klein, Drs. Thomas Rogers and Toby Eisenstein (Temple University) and Jean Bidlack (University of Rochester), a meeting was organized as a satellite to the 1993-CPDD meeting in Toronto. Drs. John Madden and Burt Sharp worked together to obtain peer-reviewed grant funding from NIDA to help underwrite this conference. The primary focus of this first conference was the immunomodulatory effects of drugs of abuse and their role in infectious-disease processes--especially AIDS. Since that meeting, a series of conferences, all sponsored by NIDA-funded meeting-grants spearheaded from the NIDA administrative side by Dr. Charles Sharp, have been held at various venues, as both independent meetings and satellites to larger conferences as listed here.

As attendance at these annual meetings grew, the idea resonated among participants and organizers to form a society to promote and disseminate knowledge in the area. During the 1999 meeting at the NIH Bethesda-campus, a working-group of participants and meeting-organizers agreed that an effort to launch a society should be mounted. Acting on behalf of this group, Dr. Robert Donahoe (Emory University, Atlanta, GA) organized a founder's meeting at the offices of Dr. Burt Sharp on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Memphis. Participants were Drs. Donahoe, Sharp, Madden and Richard Weber (University of Illinois, Peoria). These principals worked in close consultation with the working-group formed in Bethesda to define operating principles and organizational structure of a new society as well as selecting the society name, The Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology (SNIP). From these meetings and discussions a working Executive Committee and Council were formed and a mission statement and society bylaws were drafted by the new Interim Secretary, Dr. Thomas Klein, with a preferred emphasis of the fact that a number of drugs and endogenous congeners other than abused substances have important neuroimmune effects. Dr. Klein, then, also, developed the SNIP logo.

SNIP became a formal entity in 2000. This involved two major steps: 1. recruitment, by the Interim President, Dr. Burt Sharp, and the Interim Treasurer, Dr. Robert Donahoe, of 51 Charter Members who contributed the necessary financial infrastructure to launch the society; 2. incorporation of SNIP in the State of Georgia and registration as a tax-exempt organization with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by Dr. Donahoe. The Interim Executive Officers and Council met formally at the first official SNIP Conference at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, in March, 2001. There, SNIP Officers and Councilors, and its bylaws were approved by majority vote of conference participants.

Other important initiatives and programs fostered by the society over time are the recognition of contributions to the field and the society in the form of various awards: The Joe Wybran Award — for excellence in the science of NeuroImmune Pharmacology; The Herman Friedman Founders Award — for contributions to SNIP that have been visionary and served as a key to the founding of the Society and/or it's continued development and perpetuation; The Distinguished Service Award — for members whose efforts and commitment to the Society have been both consistent and exemplary over protracted years of service; The Outstanding Service and Support Award — for those who, though not necessarily investigators or members, have provided extraordinary service in support of the Society and its mission.

Also, since 1993, the Society has sponsored numerous jury-selected awards for students and young investigators, called The Arthur Falek Young Investigator Travel Award (YITA). This award provides funds so students/investigators can present their work on YITA Poster Night, the opening event at all SNIP conferences. The posters are judged at the meeting by a scientific panel of SNIP members and the top posters are singled out for further recognition. In 2010, these selected posters also were designated for oral presentation at a special conference session. SNIP considers its support for students among its top goals and greatest achievements.

A big step for SNIP came in 2006-7 when the SNIP Council approved formation of its own Journal, The Journal of NeuroImmune Pharmacology (JNIP), which was initially conceptualized by Drs. Howard Gendelman and Burt Sharp. Its formal integration into the SNIP organization occurred in 2007 under the leadership of the presiding President, Past President and President Elect, Drs. Robert Donahoe, Jean Bidlack and Phil Peterson, respectively. Together, these latter individuals comprised the first Journal Publishing Committee--a standing SNIP committee that functions under the leadership of the current SNIP Presidential triumvirate with the guidance and approval of the SNIP council. Since JNIP's inception, Dr. Gendelman has most ably served as Editor-in-Chief. JNIP is published by Springer. Their gracious and knowledgeable staff was also integrally involved in JNIP’s successful establishment as well as its ongoing current success.

Many other Officers and Councilors have lent their leadership to SNIP since its inception. They all have made unheralded contributions. The Meetings Committee, in particular, guided originally by Drs. John Madden and Guy Cabral (Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA), has been a key element in the initial and continuing success of SNIP. It has worked hard to open the meeting planning process to all members and to recruit the best symposia and speakers to keep our annual conference fresh and current. Countless talented, yet unmentioned, individuals have served on this and other important SNIP committees to foster its growth and continued relevance. These individuals and our founders cannot be thanked enough for SNIP's and JNIP's success. Because of their respective contributions, SNIP and JNIP continue to lead the way in the field of NeuroImmune Pharmacology.