skip to content

School of Pharmacy

UCSF School of Pharmacy
UCSFSchool of PharmacyAbout the SchoolAccomplishments


UCSF School of Pharmacy scientists and clinicians improve human health and well-being in ways that are both center stage and behind the scenes. Here are a few examples.

Drug information analysis

Among the first schools of pharmacy in the US to expand the breadth of drug information it provided to health care professionals to include analysis of a drug's relevance to a specific patient.

This action in 1966 reinforced the changing role of the pharmacist as a clinical drug expert rather than a technical drug dispenser. The pharmacist, working in the School's Drug Information Analysis Service (DIAS) then, as now, made specific recommendations about a proposed drug to ensure the patient received the best and most effective medication with the fewest possible side effects. Today's DIAS advises physicians, nurses and other providers on current and alternative therapies; suspected adverse drug reactions; the best ways to administer a medication; the identification of drugs purchased in foreign countries; and how to design proper drug doses for different patients.

Clinical pharmacy

In the 1960s, first to train pharmacists as drug therapy specialists and not simply drug dispensers.

This philosophical and academic shift positioned pharmacists as "clinical pharmacists" who, as active members of the health care team, began to work side by side with physicians and nurses to provide direct care to patients and consultation to patients' families.

Pathway curriculum

Innovators today of a 3-pathway Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) curriculum that gives students, who are all clinically trained, the opportunity to further explore pharmaceutical care, pharmaceutical science, and pharmaceutical health policy and management in more detail.

In order for pharmacists to meet today's changing health care needs pharmacy school curricula must be farsighted and continually refreshed.


First to develop computer-based molecular docking software program, called DOCK, that calculates and displays in three dimensions how potential drugs might attach to target molecules.

Computer-based approaches speed drug development by more efficiently "sorting out" or "screening" from millions, and billions, of chemicals those compounds that have the best potential for drug development.


Developed one of the first, and most widely used, computer models of biomolecules and drugs, called AMBER.

AMBER has been used for designing drugs, for predicting the effects of mutations on proteins, and for understanding the structures and properties of proteins and DNA molecules.


First to establish a physiological basis for describing drug distribution in the body by introducing the concept of drug "clearance."

Accurate calculations of how rapidly a drug is cleared from the body are key to understanding how much drug is active in the body at a given time and hence the most effective dose for a patient.

Research analysis

Leader in establishing how to critically evaluate and make the best use of health care information and scientific research.

The best practices by physicians and other health care providers are based upon applying accurate, unbiased information.


Demonstrated the value of antimicrobial prescription-monitoring programs in hospitals.

The intervention of hospital pharmacists is associated with the improved treatment of hospital-associated infections.


Developed a "defective version" of HIV virus protease, which acts much like a pair of molecular scissors as it "snips" apart the viral protein at specific locations. This protease can be used to corrupt normal versions of the protein, thereby preventing the viruses from accomplishing disease-related tasks in the body.

Through their publication of more than 200 papers and five patents on proteases since the early 1980s the School's scientists have made clear the value of proteases in understanding and controlling many human diseases.


Cloned the first transporter molecule, known as N1, in humans that is responsible for moving specific types of organic molecules in the liver.

Understanding how the human body handles drugs and its own naturally produced molecules is a key to improving drug development.


Applied sophisticated nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques to describe important protein structures in AIDS and fatal neurodegenerative diseases, such as mad cow disease, which can serve as targets for the "rationale" design of potential new and effective drugs.

The power of NMR and other techniques to "see" the architecture of molecules involved in disease makes it easier to determine how to rationally design drugs that bind to, or incapacitate, those molecules.

Poison control

Consolidated California's six independent poison control centers into one integrated system, which is administered by the UCSF School of Pharmacy and responds to inquiries 24 hours each day via a toll-free telephone number.

The California Poison Control System responds to approximately 600,000 poisoning inquiries each year and saves US$30 million annually in medical treatment costs.

Peptide synthesis

Invented, with School of Medicine colleague, an efficient and economical way of generating large amounts of different peptides with potentially desirable properties.

During the past decade, pharmaceutical companies have devoted more and more resources to combinatorial chemistry, which is a technological approach to generating a variety of molecules quickly. These molecules in turn are evaluated for their potentials as new drug platforms. Peptides are a very important class of molecules, many of which are made naturally by the body and perform important functions, which companies synthesize and evaluate as potential precursers to drugs that fight disease.

Cancer therapy

Discovered, through research on the basic mechanisms of the enzyme thymidylate synthase, that the then-standard combination chemotherapy of two specific drugs used against colorectal, breast, liver, head and neck cancers might actually be antagonistic.

This laboratory conclusion was subsequently supported by clinical investigations, which led to the establishment of more effective combination therapies that have now become standard cancer treatments.

Thyroid hormone

Created a synthetic thyroid hormone, named GC-1, with special and specific properties.

GC-1 can be used to develop more selective drugs to treat thyroid disorders and to learn more about how thyroid hormone regulates metabolism.

Gene delivery

Invented a method, called transfection, of delivering genes into cells for the purposes of both gene therapy to treat disease and the study of molecular mechanisms that underlie both normal physiology and disease.

Transfection is more efficient than previous gene delivery methods, which generally have yielded low percentages of cells that take up and activate a gene, and does not provoke the immunological reactions caused by the viruses typically used as gene delivery vehicles in gene therapy.

Parasitic disease

In a collaborative research effort, identified a protein target needed by the parasite Tritrichomonas foetus, determined the structure of the protein, used DOCK (See above.) to identify molecules that might bind and "immobilize" the protein, and -- using these as touchstones -- synthesized molecules that could bind more tightly to the protein while not interfering with the human forms of the protein.

Protozoans are a major cause of deadly and debilitating illness of humans and livestock throughout the world. School scientists use the sophisticated techniques of structure-based drug design and combinatorial chemistry to produce effective species-specific molecules of medicinal importance.

Protein folding

Studies here have led to a deeper understanding of the principles of how proteins adopt their structures.

Because a protein's structure is related to its function, the ability to understand principles of folding is leading to better computational models for designing drugs that can affect a protein's function. The physical theories developed here have led to a new view of how proteins adopt their structures. The ability to predict protein shape will ultimately speed the pace of scientific discovery and drug development.

Go to: About the School

image preload