Koda-Kimble Seed Award funds innovative projects

The Mary Anne Koda-Kimble Seed Award for Innovation funds “truly innovative projects” by faculty, staff, and students that “have the potential to move forward the mission of the UCSF School of Pharmacy in new ways.”

The award was established in 2012 to honor Dean Emeritus Koda-Kimble upon her retirement and to reflect her support for new directions in science, education, and patient care.

The projects selected to receive shares of $50,000 in 2016 award funding include immune profiling, health coaching, neuro-drug screening, eye drug delivery, and improved computer systems.

Developing quantitative immune profiling for rheumatoid arthritis

Principal awardees: John Haliburton, PhD student in the Biophysics graduate program and Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences; Graham Heimberg, PhD student in the Bioinformatics graduate program and Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences; Matthew Thomson, PhD, faculty fellow, UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology.

Award Funding: $20,000

The challenge: 1.5 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disorder causing painful and damaging joint inflammation. Variations in individuals’ disease state and drug response are not well understood. One-third of patients do not respond to first-line treatment and many others find reduced drug effectiveness over time.

The project: The researchers will use new single-cell technology to individually analyze thousands of white blood cells (aka immune cells) from RA patients and healthy individuals. They will quantify differences in:

  • immune cell types
  • cell states (e.g., activated)
  • gene expression—including which individual genes are active at a given time

These multi-scale immune profiles (MIPs) will precisely detail immune cell differences between healthy subjects and RA patients, as well as the differences among RA patients—potentially diagnosing and understanding this varied disease at the molecular level. The research will also analyze how patients’ MIPs change over time in response to treatment with a leading drug in order to better understand individual differences in drug response, leading to more personalized treatments.

Expanding interprofessional health coaching of underserved hospital patients

Principal awardees: Amorette Jeng, third-year PharmD student; Agnes Lau, second-year PharmD student; Tamara Lenhoff, PharmD, volunteer faculty, UCSF School of Pharmacy; Rita Nguyen, MD, faculty member, UCSF School of Medicine.

Award Funding: $15,650

The challenge: As a safety-net hospital, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG) cares for many patients at risk for low health literacy—that is, not understanding basic information to make better health decisions. This leads to worse health outcomes and higher hospitalization rates. While being hospitalized could provide the opportunity for such health coaching (and motivation for patients), inpatient providers are often too busy to take on the task. Meanwhile, many health care professional students have never worked with such underserved patient populations.

The Project: A successful pilot program called Words on the Wards (WoW) entered its second year in October 2015. In WoW, students from UCSF schools of pharmacy, medicine, nursing, and the program in physical therapy can enroll in an elective to be trained, and then work in interprofessional pairs serving as health coaches for ZSFG inpatients with diabetes and hypertension. Preliminary results from the pilot suggest increased patient confidence in management of their chronic disease.

Project leaders now plan to expand and intensify the WoW program by:

  • Creating procedures for and following up via phone to further support patients after their discharge
  • Including HIV and substance abuse counseling in coaching, which will require new curricula and more training sessions
  • Initiating a peer advocacy component and incorporating community health worker students at City College of San Francisco
  • Increasing academic rigor and measurable student competencies, as well as further evaluating student comfort with patient interactions, attitudes toward interprofessional education, and confidence with health coaching

Developing a zebrafish model to screen potential neuroprotective drugs

Principal awardee: Gha-hyun Jeffrey Kim, student in the School’s PharmD/PhD combined degree program

Award Funding: $3,580

The challenge: Developing an effective animal model in which to test compounds for protecting neurons from degenerative disease damage. Specifically, the researchers will be testing zebrafish—model organisms often used to study human disease—that are genetically modified so their brain neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine can be selectively destroyed via the introduction of a normally non-neurotoxic medication, thus mimicking the damage that occurs in Parkinson’s disease, a chronic and progressive movement disorder.

The project: The researchers will first analyze precisely how the addition of the prodrug (metronizdazole) broken down by unnatural enzymes in the dopamine-producing neurons of the genetically altered zebrafish damages those cells and how cell death is brought about. Then, working with the extensive zebrafish facilities at UCSF's Mission Bay campus and the high-throughput compound screening capacity of the School-based Small Molecule Discovery Center (SMDC), the project’s long-term goal is to develop a system to screen about 10,000 compounds per week from SMDC chemical libraries for their potential to help prevent the experimentally induced neurodegneration.

Developing slip-resistant pockets for drug delivery to the eye

Principal awardee: Jean Kim, PhD student in the UCSF-UC Berkeley Joint Graduate Program in Bioengineering

Award funding: $5,000

The challenge: Drugs are typically delivered to the eye via eyedropper to treat conditions such as glaucoma (a pressure build-up that can cause vision loss). But many patients have difficulty using eye drops and thus miss vital doses. In addition, delivering drugs via drops does not provide sustained bioavailability.

The project: Building on previous findings, the researchers will develop a non-invasive drug delivery device that sits between the eye and the lower eyelid allowing for ready placement and removal. This should enhance outcomes by eliminating variable patient compliance and providing a steadier release of drugs over time.

Crucially, the devices must prevent displacement by the blinking eye. Researchers expect to achieve this using nanostructured device surfaces inspired by and similar to the soles of geckos—structures that give those lizards the ability to climb and adhere to wet surfaces. One-by-five millimeter devices will ultimately be tested for glaucoma treatment delivery in animal models.

Integrating pharmacy education computer systems

Principal awardee: Rebecca Miller, MS, director of the School’s Office of Education and Instructional Support

Award funding: $8,050

The challenge: Currently various School of Pharmacy computer systems are not integrated—which can yield inefficiencies and missed opportunities for analyzing data and making improvements. Also, the scheduling of Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPPEs) for students and supplemental teaching activities for faculty is currently done manually—which is time intensive, potentially inflexible, and subject to errors. An integrated system would be better for School operations and reporting as well as providing easier data access to support decisions about curriculum redesign, student progress, and School accreditation.

The project: The project leaders will work with UCSF IT Integration Services to seek a robust cost-efficient solution for sharing data between current systems. They will also partner with the campus project management office to automate the scheduling of IPPEs and supplemental teaching activities.


School of Pharmacy, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program, BMI, QBC, Bioinformatics, Biophysics

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.