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Most recent School of Pharmacy primary faculty hires, by department
By David Jacobson / Tue Dec 9, 2014
The most recently hired faculty members to join the UCSF School of Pharmacy have research interests that range from the treatment of blood clots to mapping biological networks in cancer cells to understanding the molecular workings of ion channels in cell membranes. But they all share the common purpose of ultimately discovering new ways to better address disease through therapeutics. These eight are now at work in the School’s three departments.
Department of Clinical Pharmacy
Bani Tamraz, PharmD, PhD
Joined faculty: May 2014
After earning a PharmD from UCSF and completing a pharmacy practice residency at UCSF Medical Center, Tamraz earned a PhD in the School’s Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics graduate program.
Tamraz’s research focuses on identifying genetic factors underlying differences in drug response (pharmacogenomics) and their application in clinical decision making. He was recently awarded an NIH Centers for AIDS Research grant to conduct a pilot genome-wide association study to help determine the genetic bases for the observed inter-individual variations in blood and hair concentrations of the antiretroviral drug darunavir. (Hair findings indicate long-term drug exposure.) The study population will be drawn from HIV-positive participants in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study, consisting of women who are representative of the epidemic in the United States.
Tiffany Pon, PharmD
Joined faculty: September 2013
Pon earned a PharmD from Purdue University College of Pharmacy. She completed two years of residency training at UC Davis Medical Center (UCDMC), where she specialized in cardiology. Currently, she provides clinical services at UCDMC in internal medicine and cardiology.
Her research focuses on anticoagulation (the treatment and prevention of blood clots), including heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (abnormally low levels of blood-clotting platelets) and dosing of low-molecular-weight heparins in special patient populations.
Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Lei Wang, PhD
Joined faculty: November 2014
Wang earned a PhD in bioorganic chemistry from UC Berkeley and did his postdoctoral training at UC San Diego, in the lab of Nobel Laureate Roger Tsien, PhD. He comes to UCSF from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he was a Searle Scholar and was awarded the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award.
Research in Wang’s lab alters genes so that they express protein molecules with unnatural amino acids in living cells and organisms, ranging from neurons and stem cells to worms and mammals. Those proteins, in turn, have special properties that allow them be tracked or manipulated so that cell signaling processes—which control cellular responses to the environment and inter-cellular coordination, and which go awry in myriad diseases—can be investigated in vivo toward the development of new medications.
A husband-and-wife team, Altschuler and Wu took a nonlinear path to biology, each earning a PhD in mathematics from UC San Diego and joining the Princeton University faculty, then working in engineering, co-leading an invention team at Microsoft. They first transitioned to computational biology at biotech startup Rosetta Inpharmatics (since purchased by Merck), then established labs at Harvard and the University of Texas Southwestern before coming to UCSF.
Their joint lab’s research combines experimental and computational science to address cellular heterogeneity—genetic and behavioral differences among supposedly identical cell types. Altschuler and Wu have pioneered and are advancing methods to study this heterogeneity and analyze its effects, asking fundamental questions such as how such variations originate and evolve over time in both healthy and diseased tissues; which cell-to-cell differences are truly significant for function; how populations of such variant cells reliably coordinate activity in healthy tissues and biological processes (or fail to in disease); and how to best treat such heterogeneous ensembles of cells in diseases, given their different responses to drugs.
Michael Grabe, PhD
Joined faculty: January 2014
Grabe earned a PhD in physics from UC Berkeley and did postdoctoral work here at UCSF in the lab of Lily Jan, PhD. He was previously on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh, where he received a National Science Foundation CAREER award and was named an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow.
Grabe’s lab uses computational methods to understand the molecular workings of ion channels and transporters—cell membrane proteins that control the entry and exit of charged atoms and molecules—as well as how those proteins work together to regulate ion homeostasis in excitable cells (such as neurons and muscle fibers) that are stimulated by the passage of charges across the cell membrane. He also analyzes how those membrane proteins regulate such homeostasis in intracellular organelles such as membrane-bound lysosomes, which act as cellular waste disposals.
Michael Keiser, PhD
Joined faculty: January 2014
Keiser earned a PhD in the School’s Bioinformatics graduate program. He did his graduate work here, in the lab of Brian Shoichet, PhD, where he was a National Science Foundation Fellow and helped develop the Similarity Ensemble Approach (SEA). SEA relates proteins based on the statistical similarity of their ligands, with applications in the prediction of adverse drug side effects and discovery of new off-target activities by approved drugs, which could allow them to be used to treat other conditions. He is a co-founder and chairman of SeaChange Pharmaceuticals, which applies and extends SEA through work with pharmaceutical companies and the FDA.
Keiser’s lab uses computational methods, such as SEA, to predict the full networks of interacting protein targets (polypharmacology) underlying drug-induced changes in cell behavior. Such predictions narrow down trillions of potential target combinations (analogous to chords versus single protein notes) to a manageable subset that can then be experimentally tested in models of complex diseases, such as those causing neurodegeneration, which may arise from relationships among multiple interdependent pathways.
Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences (a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine)
Sourav Bandyopadhyay, PhD
Joined faculty: October 2013
Bandyopadhyay earned a PhD in bioinformatics and systems biology from UC San Diego, working in the lab of Trey Ideker, PhD. He was a California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3)/UCSF Helen Diller Family Cancer Center Fellow before joining the School’s faculty.
Bandyopadhyay’s lab seeks to understand how biological pathways (biochemical sequences that affect cell behavior)—and particularly their interactions in complex networks—fundamentally differ in cancer cells versus normal cells. For example, his lab is using high-throughput experimental methods (RNAi, small molecule inhibitors) to systematically map interactions in which the activity of one gene is modified by another. This systems-level approach aims to reveal genes and key network modules (signaling molecules and events) that modify or underlie the activity of difficult-to-inhibit oncogenes—with a focus on KRAS, which is mutated in 25 percent of human cancers—thus yielding potential new drug targets.
About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy is a premier graduate-level academic organization dedicated to improving health through precise therapeutics. It succeeds through innovative research, by educating PharmD health professional and PhD science students, and by caring for the therapeutics needs of patients while exploring innovative new models of patient care. The School was founded in 1872 as the first pharmacy school in the American West. It is an integral part of UC San Francisco, a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide.