Update from the Dean - Fall/Winter 2012

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy Family and Friends:

In 1998, when I became dean, I began writing to you twice each year. Looking back over these letters, I see tremendous progress. In this issue of the Update, I send you the latest news about the School since I wrote last summer. I also share a perspective on how far we have come, guided by our second strategic plan.

Strategic plan goals:

  1. Create a new framework for drug discovery and development;

  2. Ensure that more patients get the best results from their therapeutics; and

  3. Shape the future of pharmacy science, policy, education, and patient care by working in fresh and collaborative ways.


The total federal research grants received by the School faculty grew from $17.6 million in 2000 to $43.5 million in 2011; most of these funds were from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In fact, the faculty continues to receive more research funding from the NIH than any other pharmacy school in the nation. When we tally research funds received from all sources in 2011—including other public, private, and not-for-profit sources—the figure jumps to approximately $62.6 million. Diversifying our sources of funds for research is increasingly important as the NIH budget flattens and competition for these funds becomes ever more challenging.

The graph below captures our research growth. What it does not show is that the total annual research funding coming into the School continues to climb equally across all three of the departments. The research funding success of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, which historically has not been known for research strength, is especially notable. I credit former department Chair Lloyd Young, PharmD, and current Chair Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, for making research a department priority.

line chart showing research funds generally increasing from $17.6 million in 2000 to $43.5 million in 2011

Research Funds 2000-2011

Recent recipients of research awards to the School include, for example:

  • Dorothy Apollonio, PhD, MPP, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, received a five-year, $838,000 K07 development award from the National Cancer Institute. She will use clinical research to support the creation of state policies mandating smoking cessation therapy for patients in treatment for alcohol, drug, and mental disorders—a population twice as likely to smoke. Dorie ultimately hopes to learn how potentially lifesaving clinical research about public health interventions can be more effectively communicated to policy makers.
  • A group co-led by Shuvo Roy, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, received a two-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand federal efforts to invent new medical devices for children. The Pediatric Device Consortium, first funded in 2009, has already developed a device that uses magnets and minor surgery to correct the congenital deformity called sunken chest. The Magnetic Mini-Mover, now in clinical trials, could replace major surgery.
  • James Wells, PhD, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, received a four-year, $1.1 million grant from the NIH to dissect and better understand apoptosis. This is the healthy program of self-destruction by DNA-damaged cells that fails to occur in the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells. Jim’s ultimate goal is to identify new targets for cancer treatments.

New research directions

Science is dynamic, and the best science is collaborative. Soon after 1998, the faculty began developing the School’s first strategic plan, and the first goal was to create new, collaborative research initiatives that would address emerging drug-related research questions of critical importance to the public. Early on, faculty members pursued pharmacogenomics, developed a graduate program in chemistry and chemical biology, worked to secure collaborative research space at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, and more. They moved on from there to enhance the underlying research tools needed to enable science to flourish—tools such as nuclear magnetic resonance, mass spectrometry, molecular graphics, and now, tools such as super-resolution optical microscopy. They built a research center that uses small molecules as the basis for drug discovery, developed a research program to explore how personalized medicine discoveries are translated into clinical care and health policies, welcomed bioengineering into the School, and broadened the School’s research agenda to therapeutics, which includes drugs, medical devices, and diagnostic tests. They put new emphasis on combining the biological with the physical, chemical, and computational sciences. And, they cultivated a strong clinical research agenda with research training opportunities for the clinical faculty and students alike. Here are but two of the latest developments advancing the School’s science:

UCSF Center for Quantitative Pharmacology

We inaugurated a UCSF Center for Quantitative Pharmacology at an invitational conference in September 2011. As Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences Co-chair Kathy Giacomini, PhD explains, “Each phase of drug development has quantitative methodologies associated with it, and the data behind each stage along the drug development pipeline are growing, so there are more and more data that need to be integrated.” The new center is the latest step in the School’s contributions to the field. Since the 1970s, the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry has pioneered the use of computer modeling, simulations, and visualization in early drug discovery. At the same time, our faculty members have been using mathematical and computer simulations to speed the traditional in vivo pharmacokinetic studies of drugs.

Quantitative Biosciences Consortium (QBC)

We recently brought together five graduate programs under an umbrella program called the Quantitative Biosciences Consortium (QBC), which is directed by Charles S. Craik, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Graduate students in these programs (Bioengineering, Bioinformatics, Biophysics, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics) are learning to use quantitative experimental techniques, physical models, and mathematical analyses to better understand the complexity of biology. The timing is perfect. Increasingly, mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, chemists, and engineers are working alongside systems biologists, geneticists, and clinical scientists to reveal and measure the intricacies of biological processes. QBC unifies our graduate students across these fields.


Since my first Dean’s Update in 1998, many of our senior faculty members have retired; we have hired 89 new salaried faculty members and increased our total salaried faculty numbers from 83 to 109. Our latest two hires support our physical and quantitative work.

New faculty members

William DeGrado, PhD, joined the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Bill is an expert in the structure, function, and design of proteins and small-molecule inhibitors of protein function, and he designs proteins de novo. He earned his BS in chemistry from Kalamazoo College and his PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago. His industry experience includes positions at DuPont’s Central Research and Development Department and the DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company. Before joining us, Bill was a member of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Radojka Savic, PharmD, PhD, is now with the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences. Rada’s deep knowledge of pharmacometrics (analysis and interpretation of data produced in pre-clinical and clinical trials) and clinical pharmacology fit well with the new UCSF Center for Quantitative Pharmacology. She is an expert in NONMEM (Non-linear Mixed Effects Modeling) software, the gold standard for population pharmacokinetic modeling, and she continues to be a leader in creating new modeling tools developed out of NONMEM. Rada earned a BSc in pharmacy from Belgrade University, an MSc in biomedical sciences from the Uppsala Graduate School in Biomedical Research, and a PhD in pharmacometrics from Uppsala University. She went on to do postdoctoral research at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale in Paris and at Stanford University.

Retiring faculty members

Thomas James, PhD is retiring at the end of June. Tom is internationally known for his work in determining the dynamic structures of proteins and nucleic acids. Just as important to me, Tom is a leader of uncompromising vision and integrity. He served as chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry for many years and as a member of my Leadership Group. I especially thank Tom for the pivotal role he played in securing space for our science at the UCSF Mission Bay campus. Leaving us as well at the end of June, after returning to serve the School post-retirement, are Associate Dean Robert Day, PharmD, and Associate Dean of External Relations Lorie Rice, MPH. I wrote of their contributions and collegiality when they announced their retirements and now give them a well-deserved additional nod. Tom, Bob, and Lorie—you are the best!

Faculty honors and awards

Over the past many years, the faculty has been lauded continuously for exceptional work, including the following examples since just 1998. Charles S. Craik, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Kathy Giacomini, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, joined Leslie Benet, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, and Robert Langridge, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, as a member of the Institute of Medicine. I was honored to join this group as well. Ken Dill, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, joining department faculty members, James Wells,PhD, and William DeGrado, PhD, who were elected before they joined us. Against this backdrop of honors—although quite incomplete for the sake of space—we congratulate the following members of our faculty.

Conan MacDougall, PharmD, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, is the 2012 winner of the Albert B. Prescott / GlaxoSmithKline Pharmacy Leadership Award from the Pharmacy Leadership and Education Institute. The award spotlights a young pharmacist who the association believes will evolve into a significant leader of the profession. Conan is a force. He is an infectious diseases clinician who is highly regarded nationally for his research in appropriate antimicrobial use. But Conan’s true passion is teaching; he is beloved by his students for his humor, attention to detail, and ability to present subjects from the learner’s perspective. He will receive the award at the annual American Pharmacists Association meeting in March 2012. You may recall that last year’s recipient of this national award was Timothy Cutler, PharmD, another one of our young faculty stars!

Michael Fischbach, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, received one of 16 prestigious 2011 Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering. The award, which supports “highly creative professors early in their careers,” provides an unrestricted research grant of $875,000 over five years. Michael studies drug-like molecules produced by the bacteria in our gut. He believes these molecules are a novel form of communication between friendly bacteria and the host. By identifying and studying these molecules, he hopes to learn more about diseases linked to bacterial communities in our bowels, such as Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Bo Huang, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, received a 2011 National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award, which provides up to $300,000 annually over the next five years to support his work. Bo’s lab focuses on the development and application of super-resolution optical microscopy, which captures images of structures and processes inside living cells. Bo anticipates that this technology will allow researchers to see key macro-molecular details of health and disease playing out within our cells.

Student honors and awards

The passion of our current students is evident in the recognition they receive year after year. When they graduate with their PharmD and PhD degrees, their successes will continue as they have for our 6,500 alumni. The honors our students received since my first Update letter are too numerous to list, but they include national and international awards for exceptional leadership, science, and service. I am constantly inspired by our students and future alumni. Here are just two examples of student achievement since I last wrote.

A team of our PharmD students is one of three winners of the 2011-2012 Student Community Engaged Service Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Rebecca Hluhanich (leader), Meghan Frear, Helen Gavrilova, Rebecca Gayle, Nicha Tantipinichwong, and Van Vuong are being recognized for their work on Partners in D, a program in which multilingual UCSF student pharmacists help underserved seniors select Medicare Part D drug benefits. The team also teaches other health profession students about the benefit. Begun in 2006, the successful pilot effort grew to involve pharmacy schools throughout California. The work was funded initially by a grant from the Amgen Foundation, and this award, sponsored by Teva Pharmaceuticals, will provide $16,000 to help maintain the program’s momentum.

Mozziyar Etemadi, one of our bioengineering PhD students, was selected by Forbes magazine as one of the “30 Under 30.” Forbes culled thousands of nominations to develop this first-ever list of “today’s disrupters and tomorrow’s brightest stars” and debuted it December 12, 2011 online. As part of his PhD program, Mozziyar is working on a mobile device that will detect pre-term labor in high-risk pregnancies and transmit results to a cloud database monitored by physicians.

New appointments

We are very fortunate to welcome Michael Nordberg, MPA/HSA, as the School’s associate dean of administration and finance. Michael served as our interim associate dean for two years before accepting the position permanently. He is our chief administrative and financial officer and my key advisor on fiscal, regulatory, and administrative matters. Michael oversees the finances of the School and is our liaison on campuswide financial planning, transactions, and budget issues. We welcome Jeff Rhode, MA, as our new School of Pharmacy senior director of development. Jeff’s portfolio covers private support for the School, and his focus is on identifying, cultivating, securing, and subsequently stewarding individual major gifts of $100,000 and more. He has been working closely with me and the faculty to develop a solid and fruitful major gift program.

UCSF Medical Center

UCSF Medical Center’s electronic health record (APeX) and bar coding systems are in the process of rolling out in June 2012. What an invaluable asset this will be to the medical and pharmaceutical care of our patients here at UCSF. My congratulations to the Medical Center’s entire APeX team and Interim Director of Pharmaceutical Services, Bret Brodowy, PharmD, for leading this massive, transformational effort! Meanwhile, construction of our new cancer, women’s, and children’s hospitals at UCSF Mission Bay is proceeding apace. On October 17, 2011 we celebrated a major milestone with the placement of a 1,600-pound beam atop the sprawling hospital complex to signify the end of the structural steel phase. And, our very own Mark Laret, chief executive officer of the UCSF Medical Center, began his term as chair of the board of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Proposal to the UC Regents

As many of you have seen on the UCSF website and in the media, Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, proposed to the UC Regents—with the full backing of her leadership team of which I am a part—that a working group be appointed to:

  • Evaluate new and enhanced growth opportunities for UCSF,
  • Examine UCSF’s financial relationship with the UC system, and
  • Explore alternative governance models.

The purpose is to secure a financially sustainable business model that will enable UCSF to maintain and grow its excellence and to continue delivering on its critically important public mission. That group is now formed and the report will be used to inform the chancellor’s recommendations to the UC Regents, which is planned for July.

To be clear, UCSF is completely committed to its public mission and will remain a part of the UC system. At the same time, we need a governance and finance model that can sustain and speed innovations in health. More details and updates are available at Chancellor Names “Future of UCSF” Working Group Members.

Extending our strategic plan

As we look at how we might restructure campus governance and finances, the School continues to press ahead in new directions. We are refreshing and extending our current strategic plan for three years, and we created longer-range goals to help frame our work over the next 15 to 20 years.

These three longer-range goals will be reviewed at a faculty retreat in the fall:

  1. Change the face of pharmacy education and bolster PhD, residency, fellowship, and master’s-level training. In particular, the School sees itself becoming a leader in learner-centered, modular, virtual programs that connect to practitioners, scientists, industry leaders, and degree-seeking learners here and abroad in exciting new ways.
  2. Become a pace-setting, international hub for innovative therapeutics research. The School now includes drugs, medical devices, diagnostic tests, and precision medicine under the therapeutics umbrella. Prominent programs will include quantitative and systems pharmacology, a center for enabling technologies and computational tools for basic cellular and quantitative sciences, pharmacometrics and pharmacogenomics services, a drug studies unit, a medications outcome research center, and a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-certified manufacturing and analytical facility. Our intent is to raise the prominence of UCSF as a whole as the go-to place for the discovery of precise new medical tests and therapeutic interventions.
  3. Create a contemporary, disease-agnostic research space as a nexus for therapeutic sciences. To flourish, a new building at Mission Bay dedicated to therapeutics is essential. Research there will be primarily disease-agnostic, interdisciplinary, innovative, and a resource for therapeutics research campuswide and, in fact, worldwide.

A few last words

As many of you know, I will be stepping down as dean and retiring from the University at the end of June 2012, so this is my last Update. I encourage you to remain in touch with the School by visiting pharmacy.ucsf.edu, as I plan to do. Susan Levings, MS, our invaluable associate dean of planning and communications, will continue to keep us abreast of the School’s accomplishments and progress through this medium.

My years at UCSF have been extraordinary—first as a student; then as a clinician, teacher, head of student affairs, and department chair; and now as dean. I have been so enriched by years of working with passionate, visionary students; brilliant faculty colleagues unafraid to stretch the boundaries of teaching and science; a network of volunteer faculty members whose devotion is beyond compare and without whom we could never deliver our PharmD program; exceptional and caring staff members; and a devoted cadre of generous alumni and friends. My life has been touched deeply by the collegiality of so many people at UCSF across fields, departments, and schools; there is just no place like UCSF in the academic world.

How exhilarating it has been to be part of the UCSF story. As one member of our faculty observed, “You have been lucky to be a part of the modern history of the School, reaching back to its past and glimpsing into its future.”

Our campus leadership is strong and determined to create the financial framework UCSF needs to become the world’s preeminent health sciences innovator, and our School is stronger than it has ever been.

The School is poised to lead

  • research into a new era of human biology, bioinformatics, therapeutic discovery, and precision therapeutics;
  • teaching into a new era that embraces and manages both the deluge of information practitioners must accommodate to provide the best care for patients and the technologies needed to enhance new ways of learning across disciplines and over a lifetime of practice; and
  • practice into a new era that delivers care across the health care landscape in radically new patient-centered, interdisciplinary ways.

The School’s success will continue long after my deanship ends, just as its success will continue after the tenure of many deans to come. Generation after generation of the School’s faculty and staff members, students and administrators pass forward their lessons learned, and with each transition these lessons are enhanced. With this in mind, I share a favorite poem by my brother-in-law Gary Snyder. It is called “Axe Handles.”

Axe Handles

Gary Snyder

One afternoon the last week in April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
And go gets it, and wants it for his own.
A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!
“When making an axe handle
the pattern is not far off.”

And I say this to Kai
“Look: We’ll shape the handle
By checking the handle
Of the axe we cut with”
And he sees. And I hear it again:
It’s in Lu Ji’s We Fu, fourth century
A.D. “Essay on Literature” in the
Preface: “In making the handle
Of an axe
By cutting wood with an axe
The model is indeed near at hand.”
My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen
Translated that and taught it years ago
And I see: Pound was an axe,
Chen was an axe, I am an axe
And my son a handle, soon
To be shaping again, model
And tool, craft of culture,
How we go on.

With great affection and gratitude,


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.