Nabarun Dasgupta named in Time100 Next

The magazine recognized the Gillings scientist for easing access to naloxone and testing street drugs.

Five people huddled around a laptop in a laboratory.
Nabarun Dasgupta (center) works to to develop innovative approaches to understanding and addressing health problems arising from opioid use. (Photo courtesy of Pearson Ridley)

UNC-Chapel Hill scientist Nabarun Dasgupta has been recognized by TIME100 Next for his work responding to the national opioid overdose epidemic.

Dasgupta is a senior scientist with the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center and a Gillings Innovation Fellow at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. His research is made possible by the North Carolina Collaboratory, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and charitable foundations.

TIME100 Next is an expansion of the TIME100 list of the most influential people in the world. Inclusion in the TIME100 Next list recognizes Dasgupta alongside emerging global leaders who are shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, health, science, activism and more.

“This award is so well deserved,” said Nancy Messonnier, Gillings dean. “Nab’s innovative and exemplary work serves as a bright light, both illuminating the real human lives behind the generalized harm caused by street drugs and revealing the breadth of which kinds of work and care are included when we talk about ‘public health.’ Nab’s team, under his leadership, has saved an ever-growing number of lives and offers a great deal of tangible hope in the face of the opioid overdose epidemic.”

The opioid overdose epidemic is one of the most significant public health challenges facing communities across the United States, causing early deaths and exacerbating health disparities. According to the CDC, opioids were involved in more than 80,000 overdose deaths in 2021.

Dasgupta collaborates with community partners and a multidisciplinary team of scientists with backgrounds in health communication, public health, medicine and chemistry to develop innovative approaches to understanding and addressing health problems arising from opioid use. Since 2021, his lab has analyzed drug samples from 32 states, helping to identify emerging public health threats in real-time.

Dasgupta’s UNC Street Drug Analysis Lab tests samples submitted by public health programs to identify what is in street drugs, which can vary significantly in their chemical makeup and potency. Knowing what’s in these drugs and tracking street drug trends helps individuals make better decisions about their health. This research also supports experts in developing harm reduction approaches, educating community members about overdose risk and avoiding harm from drug additives. The data from Dasgupta’s lab also provides clinicians and public health practitioners with necessary information for treating patients and addressing overdose outbreaks.

But Dasgupta doesn’t just study drug problems — he also implements large-scale solutions. In 2022, he co-founded the nonprofit Remedy Alliance For The People, a groundbreaking bulk distributor of the opioid reversal drug naloxone. The organization has shipped over 1.6 million doses to 44 states free or at cost to save countless lives.

“Nab’s commitment to meaningful inclusive solutions for challenging public health problems makes him a magic maker and full spectrum solutionist,” said Maya Doe Simkins, Remedy Alliance co-director

“I’m delighted to be selected as part of the Time100 Next cohort. While this may appear to be a singular honor, I am humbled to highlight the compassionate heroes who care for our loved ones and offer practical scientific solutions,” Dasgupta said. “It’s been lifegiving to work with harm reduction programs and public health departments who are on the frontlines of preventing overdoses.”

The full TIME100 Next list and related tributes appear in the Sept. 25 issue, available on newsstands on Sept. 15 and now at time.com/next.

Read more about Dasgupta’s work.