Akihiko Ozawa, Ph.D.

Akihiko Ozawa

Research Associate Professor, Biomedical Science

777 Glades Road

Boca Raton, FL 33431

BC 71, Room 301F

p: 561-297-4688


Department: Biomedical Science


Dr. Ozawa’s research interest is to understand how opioids and their cognate receptors mechanistically regulate pain in the brain, spinal cord, and the peripheral tissues at the neural circuit levels. This includes understanding neural circuits regulating pain transmission initiated by different types of pain including acute and chronic pain, and migraine. He also focuses on investigating the mechanism of how the brain decodes pain signal to regulate specific pain behaviors (e.g., distinguishing nociception and pain-related emotional changes). He utilizes a multidisciplinary approach including neuroanatomy, molecular biology, pharmacogenetics, behavioral pharmacology and neural recording combined with mouse genetics to address these research topics. These research topics will be helpful in unmasking the complex nociceptive transmissions underlying the opioid receptor systems, and ultimately, provide us with valuable information to develop effective pain medications/therapies.


  • 2000-2003: Ph.D., Ehime University, Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Matsuyama, Japan
    Thesis title: "Molecular mechanism of RIP and RALyase on ribosome inactivation" (Mentor: Dr. Yaeta Endo)
  • 1998-2000: M.S., Ehime University, Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Matsuyama, Japan
  • 1994-1998: B.S., Ehime University, Faculty of Engineering, Matsuyama, Japan

Work History

  • 2022-present: Research Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Science, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL
  • 2018-2022: Research Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Science, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL
  • 2012-2018: Senior Scientist, Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, Port St. Lucie, FL
  • 2010-2011: Research Associate, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Maryland-Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
  • 2007-2010: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Maryland-Baltimore, Baltimore, MD (worked under Dr. Iris Lindberg)
  • 2006-2007: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA (worked under Dr. Iris Lindberg)
  • 2003-2005: Postdoctoral scientist, Five Prime Therapeutics, Inc., South San Francisco, CA (worked under Dr. Lewis T. Williams)

Scholarly Activity

Selected Peer-Reviewed Publications

  • L. Toll, A. Cippitelli, and A. Ozawa (2021) The NOP receptor system in neurological and psychiatric disorders: discrepancies, peculiarities and clinical progress. CNS Drugs, doi: 10.1007/s40263-021-00821-0. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34057709.
  • A. Ozawa, and H. Arakawa, (2021) Chemogenetics drives paradigm change in the investigation of behavioral circuits and neural mechanisms underlying drug action. Behavioural Brain Research. May 21;406: 113234-113246. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2021.113234. PMID: 33741409; PMCID: PMC8110310
  • K.M. Targowska-Duda, A. Ozawa, Z. Bertels, A. Cippitelli, J.L. Marcus, H.K. Mielke-Maday, G. Zribi, A.N. Rainey, B.L. Kieffer, A.A. Pradhan, L. Toll (2020) NOP receptor agonist attenuates nitroglycerin-induced migraine-like symptoms in mice. Neuropharmacology. Jun 15;170:108029. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2020.108029. PMID: 32278976; PMCID: PMC7243257.
  • L. Toll, A. Ozawa, and A. Cippitelli (2019) NOP-Related Mechanisms in Pain and Analgesia. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology. 254:165-186. doi: 10.1007/164_2019_214. PMID: 31119465.
  • G. Brunori, J. Schoch, D. Mercatelli, A. Ozawa, L. Toll, and A. Cippitelli (2018) Influence of neuropathic pain on nicotinic acetylcholine receptor plasticity and behavioral responses to nicotine in rats. Pain. 159(11):2179-2191. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001318. PMID: 29939964; PMCID: PMC6193825.
  • A. Ozawa*, G. Brunori, A. Cippitelli, N. Toll, J. Schoch, B.L. Kieffer, and L. Toll (2018) Analysis of the spinal NOP receptor distribution under a chronic pain model using NOP-eGFP knock-in mice. British Journal of Pharmacology. Jul;175(13):2662-2675. doi: 10.1111/bph.14225. PMID: 29582417; PMCID: PMC6003644. *Corresponding author
  • J. Wu, A. Cippitelli, Y. Zhang, G. Debevec, J. Schoch, A. Ozawa, Y. Yu, H. Liu, W. Chen, R.A. Houghten, G.S. Welmaker, M.A. Giulianotti, Lawrence Toll (2017) Highly selective and potent α4β2 nAChR antagonist inhibits nicotine self-administration and reinstatement in rats. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. Dec 28;60(24):10092-10104. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.7b01250. Epub 2017 Dec 13. PMID: 29178785; PMCID: PMC6697865.
  • Y. Li, N. Bionda, R. Fleeman, H. Wang, A. Ozawa, R.A. Houghten, and L. Shaw (2016) Identification of 5,6-dihydroimidazo[2,1-b]thiazoles as a new class of antimicrobial agents. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry. Nov 1;24(21):5633-5638. doi: 10.1016/j.bmc.2016.09.027. Epub 2016 Sep 12. PMID: 27663549; PMCID: PMC5065789.
  • A. Ozawa, G. Brunori, D. Mercatelli, J. Wu, A. Cippitelli, B. Zou, X. Xie, M. Williams, N.T. Zaveri, S. Low, G. Scherrer, B.L. Kieffer, and L. Toll (2015) Knock-in mice with NOP-eGFP receptors identify receptor cellular and regional localization. Journal of Neuroscience. Aug 19;35(33):11682-93. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5122-14.2015. PMID: 26290245; PMCID: PMC4540802.

VIEW Bibliography



  • 1R34NS121875-01(2021-2023)
    NIH/NINDS/BRAIN Initiative
    Dissecting active neural circuits regulating sensory and affective pain
    The goal for this proposal is to identify the neuronal subsets that are activated by distinct pain modalities including chronic pain in the anterior cingulate cortex and spinal cord.
    Role: PI
  • 1R21NS122154-01A1 (2021-2023)
    Genetic Models to Study the Involvement of IL-1 in Acute and Chronic Pain
    The goal for this proposal is to identify the types of cells expressing IL-1R1 in the tissues important for pain directly regulating pain transmission using IL-1R1 global KO restore mice crossed with cell-type specific Cre driver mouse strains.
    Role: Co-investigator
  • PR200224(2021-2024)
    Investigation into NOP Receptor Agonists for the Treatment of Chronic Migraine
    Department of Defense
    The goal for this proposal is to investigate the effectiveness of NOP receptor-based agonists as a potential target for new treatment of chronic migraine.
    Role: Co-investigator
  • 2R01DA023281-10A1 (2017-2022)
    Mixed NOP/Mu compounds and the involvement of their receptors in analgesia
    The goal of this project is to understand the alternation of NOP receptor location in spinal, supraspinal and peripheral tissues corresponding to acute and chronic pain using knock-in mice expressing NOP-eGFP.
    Role: Co-investigator


  • 1R01DA040882-01A1 (2016-2021)
    NIH/NIDA, R01
    NPQ/Spexin, the endogenous ligand for the galanin receptor 3
    The goal for this proposal is to understand how NPQ and its cognate receptor GALR3 are involved in acute, chronic and inflammatory pain.
    Role: MPI
  • Neuroscience Pilot Award Program 2018, FAU Brain Institute (2018-2019)
    Development of a mouse genetic model to investigate the plasticity of NOP receptor circuitry in acute pain
    To determine the contribution of c-Fos expressing spinal neurons to NOP receptor-based analgesic function in acute pain using Fos-TRAP2 mice
    Role: PI
  • 5R21NS075602-02 (2012-2015)
    Posttranslational regulation of augurin, a new secretory tumor suppressor
    The goal of this proposal is to understand the posttranslational modifications required of augurin to act as a tumor suppressor in glioblastoma cells.
    Role: PI

Additional Information
The Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine offers students a variety of educational programs and degrees.
Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine
Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road, BC-71
Boca Raton, FL 33431