Update from the Dean - Spring/Summer 2009

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy Family and Friends:

Anxiety buffered by conviction is how I describe the mood here at UCSF as we face, with the rest of the nation, an intensely challenging economic period. In spite of the situation, we continue to make tremendous progress toward achieving the School's strategic plan, and we continue to be recognized widely for our expertise and leadership. I have much good news to share in this Update.

New Chancellor

I am thrilled to welcome our new chancellor, Susan Desmond-Hellman, MD, MPH, who began officially on August 3. As you will see from Susan's history, she brings many talents and perspectives to this position. She earned a medical degree from the University of Nevada and an MPH from UC Berkeley; she is board-certified in internal medicine and medical oncology. While a UCSF associate adjunct professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, she spent 2 years in Uganda studying AIDS and cancer. She also spent 2 years in private practice. Susan was associate director of clinical cancer research at Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute and the project team leader there for TAXOL®. Most recently, she was president of product development for Genentech. She has been listed among Fortune's "Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Business," and she was one of The Wall Street Journal's "Women to Watch." Of great importance to the School, Susan has worked with our graduates and counts 2 pharmacists in her family—her father and brother! I look forward to working with Susan, and have full confidence that the campus will benefit from her clinical perspective, leadership, and business management expertise.

Budget Update

In my last letter, I reported that—due to the California state budget deficit—the University of California budget would likely be cut by approximately 6.8%. And, I noted that UC would also be responsible for additional, but unfunded expenses for health care, retirement, and infrastructure. The situation is now far worse than I or others could ever have anticipated. The reductions for 2009-2010 are now 20% less than UC's original 2008-2009 budget. The cumulative cut to UC's state budget for 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 is $813 million; the additional unfunded expenses total $335 million. Taken together, UC's total 2-year funding shortfall is $1.5 billion.

At its July meeting, the UC Board of Regents approved UC President Mark Yudof's proposal to address this unprecedented budget crisis. As he explained in a letter to the UC community:

System-wide furloughs will produce $515 million from all fund sources, including $184 million in General Fund savings which equals roughly one-quarter of our State funding deficit. Student fee increases will bring $200 million to cover another quarter of the shortfall. Additional savings will come from restructuring the UC debt. Cuts in campus spending will yield an additional estimated $300 million.

Salary cuts across the UC system for most employees will range from 4% to 10% with higher paid employees taking higher cuts. Furloughs will provide additional time off for salary reductions, again on a graduated scale of from 11 to 25 days per year. Senior managers will take a maximum of 10 furlough days. The plan will be in effect from September 1, 2009, until August 31, 2010, but is subject to renewal by further action of the Regents. As these cuts are taken, President Yudof has assembled a commission to reexamine the entire UC funding model. More details are available on the UC budget website.

As this review proceeds, I am asking our faculty and staff to rethink how we can sustain excellence by working in more contemporary, efficient ways. Of one thing I am certain: we will have to succeed with fewer resources for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the many, specific budget-cutting steps I outlined in my last Update letter are also under way, and I continue to be personally committed to raising funds to support our PharmD and PhD students, who have suffered the brunt of these horrific and cumulative budget cuts over the past 8 years. Through all of this, we remain resilient and focused on accomplishing our goals.

After a long and protracted 2009-2010 California state budget process we have more, but not final, information about the short-term future of the California Poison Control System (CPCS), which is operated by our Department of Clinical Pharmacy under Executive Director Stuart Heard, PharmD, FCSHP. Some funds were included for the System in the final, approved state budget.* However, they are one-half of what we normally receive as a minimum for the year and only 25% of the total annual operating cost for the System. If we are able to match these funds and supplement them with other sources, the System could remain open for another year. There are a lot of ifs yet to be addressed. We are hopeful but remain concerned. I thank Stu and many, many others—including student pharmacists throughout the state—for their tireless work to keep the System open for the benefit of the public. This information is subject to change but is accurate as of August 24, 2009.

*Note: The CPCS relies on different state general funds than does UC, and on matching federal funds.

New Department

Shaping the future of pharmacy science, policy, education, and patient care by working in fresh and collaborative ways is one of the School's major strategic goals. The new UCSF Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, which is focused on speeding the innovation of medicines and medical devices to "intelligent" therapeutics, signals how serious we are in achieving this goal. The exciting new department is a union of the former Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences in the School of Pharmacy and the Program in Bioengineering in the School of Medicine. The department is co-chaired by Kathy Giacomini, PhD, an international expert in pharmacogenomics, and Sarah Nelson, Dr.rer.nat.**, a pioneer in developing new imaging techniques. It is a joint department between the Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine. Both School of Medicine Interim Dean Sam Hawgood, MBBS***, and I fully supported this merger. It makes sense from all angles.

**Sarah earned her Doctor rerum naturalium degree—equivalent to a PhD—at Heidelberg University, Germany.
***Sam earned his MBBS—equivalent to an MD—at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Faculty Honors and Awards

Our faculty members continue to shine.

Esteban González Burchard, MD, MPH, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, was elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI). The ASCI is one of the oldest medical honor societies in the US. Esteban's research focuses on identifying genetic risk factors for asthma and drug response in ethnically diverse populations.

One of Esteban's department colleagues, Carl Peck, MD, received the Henry W. Elliott Distinguished Service Award from the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (ASCPT). The award recognizes an ASCPT member who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in service to the organization. Carl has a long history of service to ASCPT and was its president from 1999 to 2000.

Three recent awards acknowledge the work of Tejal Desai, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences. Tejal was named the 2009 Emerging Scholar in Physiology by Diverse Issues in Higher Education, which is a news source that promotes the higher education of people of color and underrepresented minority groups. This summer, the Controlled Release Society (CRS) recognized Tejal and her students with 2 awards—the 2009 CRS Outstanding Pharmaceutical Paper Award co-sponsored by 3M Drug Delivery Systems and the 2009 CRS Outstanding Oral Drug Delivery Award co-sponsored by Banner. The CRS is an international organization that is dedicated to the science and technology of delivering substances, called bioactives, that have effects on living tissue. Tejal is an accomplished bioengineer whose laboratory focuses on the design, fabrication, and use of advanced micro/nano biosystems.

Shuvo Roy, PhD, fellow bioengineer in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, was nominated for the Biotech Humanitarian Award, which is given by the Biotechnology Industry Organization in recognition of an individual who has used biotechnology to unlock its potential to improve the earth. Shuvo's numerous projects include the development of an implantable artificial kidney that performs all of the functions of the living organ.

Two of our Department of Clinical Pharmacy faculty members received prestigious teaching and mentoring awards this past spring. Lisa Bero, PhD, received the UCSF Harold S. Luft Award for Mentoring in Health Services and Health Policy Research and the 2008-2009 UCSF Academic Senate Distinction in Mentoring Award. The Luft award is named in honor of the former director of the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies. The Senate award is given by UCSF faculty peers. Notably, this is the first time both of these awards have been given, and Lisa is the inaugural recipient of both! Conan MacDougall, PharmD, received the 2008-2009 UCSF Academic Senate Distinction in Teaching Award for faculty members who have been at UCSF for 5 years or less. In his 4 short years on our faculty, Conan has twice received the Long Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which is the School's highest teaching award.

Nancy Hessol, MSPH, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, received certificates of appreciation and honor from the City and County of San Francisco for her years of service to the San Francisco Public Health Foundation. Nancy's expertise includes equal access to health care.

Another Department of Clinical Pharmacy faculty member, Kathryn Phillips, PhD, was chosen to deliver the Ellis Grollman Lecture in the Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Maryland. Kathryn is a health economist and director of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy's UCSF Center for Translational and Policy Research.

Because of her expertise in integrative and complementary therapies, Candy Tsourounis, PharmD, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, was selected to participate in an international practicum on dietary supplement research, which was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements and held in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dorothy Apollonio, PhD, MPP, Department of Clinical Pharmacy received the inaugural Best Article Prize for 2007-2008, with her co-authors, for "Wheat from Chaff: Third Party Monitoring and FEC Enforcement Actions." The piece was published by the journal Regulation & Governance, which also sponsored the award.

James Wells, PhD, chair, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, gave the Herman S. Bloch Award Lecture in Chemistry at the University of Chicago this spring, and the Annual Sidney Weinhouse Memorial Lecture at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia this past winter.

Danica Galonić Fujimori, PhD, was named a 2009 Kimmel Scholar by the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research. Danica is studying how enzymes regulate biological pathways, including those that give rise to disease. The Kimmel award comes with a junior faculty grant in support of Danica's work on those enzymes that modify histones in cancer. Danica's primary faculty appointment is in the medical school's Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, and she holds a joint appointment in our Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.


Patricia Babbitt, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, has accepted an appointment to the Scientific Board of the Counselors for the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). The NCBI creates and manages biomedical information to better understand the molecular processes that affect human health and disease. Patsy is well known for her work in using bioinformatics to better understand proteins.

Another Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences faculty member, Andrej Sali, PhD, was appointed director of the UCSF arm of the UC California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3). Andrej, who is an expert in developing methods to predict and analyze protein structure, will be developing new science initiatives among faculty members at UCSF through the QB3 program.

James Wells, PhD, accepted an invitation to sit on the scientific advisory board for the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, which was the first medical research institute to be established in Australia.

Neal Benowitz, MD, has been appointed chair of the Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This committee reviews the safety and effectiveness of over-the-counter drugs and advises the FDA commissioner on nonprescription drug research and on the approval of new drug applications for nonprescription status. Neal is a pharmacologist whose primary faculty appointment is in the medical school; he holds a joint appointment in our Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.

PharmD and PhD Programs and Students

We managed a successful Doctor of Pharmacy program admissions cycle for fall 2009; there were 1,673 applications, which is the largest pool in our history. I am happy to report that we have expanded the diversity of the fall 2009 class; underrepresented minority students comprise 14.75% of this class compared to 10.66% of last year's entering class.

Thomas Yi, 4th-year student pharmacist, was honored by UCSF in June 2009 with one of 3 Chancellor's Awards for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and/or Transgender Leadership (GLBT). Thomas has been active in eliminating GLBT health disparities, improving GLBT awareness within the pharmacy school curriculum, and recruiting GLBT applications for our PharmD program. I am most impressed that Thomas developed an elective aimed at enhancing health care provided to GLBT patients. The course was offered to all health professional students.

Third-year student pharmacist Heather Hertema received the 2009 Chancellor's Award for Public Service. The award recognizes members of the UCSF community who have served the public exceptionally well beyond the scope of their normal UCSF job duties, research, or training. The award recognizes Heather as the force behind Summer Science Camp, which exposes elementary school students to the excitement of science through hands-on activities.

Graduate students in our 5 PhD programs continue to publish…and publish. Among the Biophysics, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Biological and Medical Informatics, and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics graduate programs alone, our students published more than 100 papers this past year. It is clear why they are so successful in obtaining fellowships. Quite simply, they are the best and brightest in the nation. Our graduate programs shine because of our outstanding students and because of the time our faculty devote to keeping our programs fresh and timely.

Pharmaceutical Science and Pharmacogenomics graduate program students—as members of the student chapter of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS)—organized, funded, and implemented Science Day on January 10, 2009, at Mission Bay for 45 elementary and middle school children and their parents. The event was a huge success. Children entered a gigantic mouth then traveled the path of a drug from absorption to excretion as they conducted experiments along the way. Many of our graduate students are actively involved, as well, in other campus programs that focus on science education for the public.

The Chemistry and Chemical Biology National Institutes of Health training grant received a very high score and was renewed for 5 years with 10 training grant slots. It was ranked as one of the top chemical biology programs in the country. The program successfully completed the UCSF Academic Senate's Academic Program Review and received outstanding marks. It was criticized only for being too small and not having sufficient funds to allow expansion.

With the formation of our new Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, we formally welcome graduate students from the UCSF/UCB Joint Graduate Group in Bioengineering into the School of Pharmacy family.

Research Highlights

Our research progress has been tremendous these past 6 months. Here is a small sample.

A team of scientists led by Frances Brodsky, DPhil, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, has found in humans a protein responsible for glucose metabolism that is not present in mice. Since mice are often used as models when studying diabetes and other diseases, the often-unknown differences between mice and humans can create obstacles to direct translation of research. As a result, these differences need to be taken into account to understand the progression of disease in humans, according to the researchers. The paper appeared in the May 29, 2009, issue of Science.

A chemical precursor molecule of gasoline can be produced from biomass and salt, according to research by Christopher Voigt, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and UCSF colleagues. In this case, the precursor is methyl halide, and the gasoline derived from it through catalytic conversion is chemically indistinguishable from that produced from petroleum, which means it would not require new vehicle engines. Chris' approach to methyl halide production uses non-food crop waste or grasses and consequently would not displace food-producing crops. Research results were published online April 20, 2009, by the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Chris and colleagues also published a paper in Cell, June 22, 2009, online, that builds upon their previous success in engineering E. coli to act as a film, capable of "taking" a photograph. Now they have programmed the bacterium to perform a much more complicated task, which is to "trace" objects in an image by producing a visible black pigment. This work shows that it is possible to string tens or hundreds of genes together to engineer cells to perform very complex tasks, such as self assembling into a liver or swimming through the bloodstream to hunt and kill tumors.

Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry mass spectrometry expert Alma Burlingame, PhD, and colleagues have made a breakthrough in understanding the signals that control the addition, or binding, of specific molecules to proteins so they can function in cells. Modification of proteins is essential to their functions. Al discovered that sugar molecules can compete reversibly with phosphate molecules for binding sites on proteins at specific locations. The implication is that if we could influence the cell signal that commands these events, we might be able to control abnormal glucose metabolism and other cell functions. The paper explaining this work appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, June 2, 2009.

With his research colleagues, Anthony Hunt, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, has led numerous studies over the past few years that have given us new ways to model and simulate biological events. Use of these techniques is shedding light on the complexities of biology and better ways to intervene with therapeutics to address disease. As an example, a paper published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics reports achieving an important milestone in unraveling the complex changes that occur from normal to disease states and their influences on drug disposition. The authors developed and conducted experiments on normal and diseased (cirrhotic) computer-based virtual livers, which provide insights that cannot be achieved with real livers.

Congratulations to Brian Shoichet, PhD, and colleagues who learned in May that they will receive a grant over 4 years from the National Institutes of Health to develop a web-based virtual screening system. Brian, John Irwin, PhD, and their colleagues have published 2 related papers in Nature Chemical Biology, March 2009, and in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), April 2009. Taken together, these papers show that computation can find interesting molecules with specific binding abilities-called ligands-for drug targets. In PNAS, April 2009, Brian and colleagues used the recently determined x-ray structure of a specific receptor to find new lead drug molecules for asthma and cardiopulmonary disease. Receptors of the type they studied are targets for 40% of all drugs. The paper shows that x-ray structures of these receptors can be used to rapidly identify potential lead drug molecules.

In another interesting paper, Brian and colleagues ask: Why does high-throughput-screening ever work? After all, as he explains, screening only tests one billionth-billionth-billionth-billionth-billionth-billionth of possible candidates. But it does work, sometimes. Why? Read their theory in Nature Chemical Biology, May 2009.

Dorothy Apollonio, PhD, MPP, Department of Clinical Pharmacy and School of Nursing colleague, Ruth Malone, RN, PhD, FAAN, published a paper in the June 2009 issue of Health Education Research on the use of negative advertising in public health media campaigns, using tobacco advertising as their focus. They argued that negative advertising, which has been shown effective in changing behavior but is little-used in public media campaigns, can effectively communicate certain public health messages. It can also counter corporate disease promotion, such as the promotion of tobacco use.

My last research report for this Update is a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 3, 2009, by James Wells, PhD, and colleagues. Proteins often exist in on and off conformations, and Jim's group showed that it is possible to rationally select for antibodies that recognize these specific protein conformations and thus control their functional states. This discovery is one more piece of information important to our first strategic plan goal, which is to create a new framework for drug discovery and development. Jim also received a gift from Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development, LLC, and a grant from the Multiple Myeloma Foundation. Both of these will be used to develop, for multiple myeloma, molecules that activate the process known as cell death. When the process is not properly triggered, an overgrowth of cells can occur such as in multiple myeloma. In addition, Jim just received a gift from the Hartwell Foundation toward identifying leukemia drug targets.

Our scientists have identified a new potential drug target for the herpes virus that causes Kaposi's sarcoma. Their work reopens the possibility of using the class of drugs called protease inhibitors against the full herpes family of viruses. The new drug could serve as a model for developing new therapeutics for diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's. This research was published online in Nature Chemical Biology, July 26, 2009. The lead author is Tina Shahian, UCSF Graduate Group in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Authors from our Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry are senior author Charles S. Craik, PhD, Gregory M. Lee, PhD, and Ana Lazic, PhD. Other authors are colleagues from St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

In the News

We have been in the news a lot these past 6 months. Here are examples. Marilyn Speedie, PhD, dean of the College of Pharmacy, University of Minnesota, and I are advocating for immediate changes in how doctor of pharmacy programs are accredited in the U.S.. If these changes are not made, we are calling for the formation of a new accrediting body. Our editorial appeared in Pharmacotherapy this past spring 2009. National implications of a potential California Poison Control System shutdown in California were covered in The New York Times on June 29, 2009. Articles in Reuters, New Scientist, Biomass Magazine, ICIS and in other titles and blogs internationally covered the methyl halide synthesis paper by Christopher Voigt, PhD and colleagues that I explain above. William Soller, PhD, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, faculty member and expert on food and drug law and regulations was interviewed on KCBS radio concerning the June 30, 2009, vote of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee to lower the U.S. maximum over-the-counter dose of acetaminophen and make the current maximum single dose of the drug be available by prescription only. Bill's research on acetaminophen was included as part of the advisory committee's deliberations.

To read more about our School in the news, visit pharmacy.ucsf.edu/news.


Chancellor Desmond-Hellman will recommend to the UC Regents that School of Medicine Interim Dean, Sam Hawgood, MBBS, serve the dual posts of medical school dean and vice chancellor for medical affairs. This is exciting news. I have worked with Sam extensively since he accepted the interim appointment in December 2007 and have found him to be extremely thoughtful, collegial, and transparent in his work. Despite the challenges that abound, Sam is focused on moving forward. Sam earned his medical degree, with honors, from the University of Queensland, Australia. After training in pediatrics and a neonatal fellowship, he joined the UCSF faculty 26 years ago. While serving as interim dean, Sam has remained chair of the Department of Pediatrics, physician-in-chief of UCSF Children's Hospital, and president of the UCSF Medical Group. I look forward to continuing our collaboration.

While we have worked hard campuswide to tighten our belts and reassess expenditures, we also geared up in response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The act allocates $10.4 billion to the National Institutes of Health in federal economic stimulus funding. Helping to coordinate and expedite UCSF faculty requests for funding is a new committee chaired by School of Medicine researcher Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD. I am on the committee as well as other faculty and administrative colleagues from across the campus.

Frank McCormick, PhD, director of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, led the June 2, 2009, opening of the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building on the Mission Bay campus. This beautiful research facility, which was designed by award-winning architect Rafael Vinoly, brings together scientists scattered across many UCSF sites to more effectively address new approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The construction was supported by a $35 million gift from the Helen Diller Family Foundation and many other donors.

The UCSF Medical Center received a $125 million gift for its $600 million campaign to build a children's, women's specialty, and cancer hospital complex at the UCSF Mission Bay campus. The gift, which requires a 100% match, was made by Charles F. Feeney, founding chairman of The Atlantic Philanthropies. Congratulations to the Medical Center as it retains its place as the 7th-best hospital in the nation, according to the new 2009-2010 America's Best Hospitals survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report. Much of this success can be attributed to the gifted leadership of Mark Laret, CEO of the UCSF Medical Center.

Even as I impose my own deadline for items to add to this letter, more come to my attention, but these will have to await my next "note" to you. So many exciting things are happening here. We remain on the move. As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

With warm regards until I write again,

Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD
Professor and Dean
Thomas J. Long Chair in Community Pharmacy Practice


School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program, CCB, PSPG, Bioinformatics, Biophysics, BMI

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.