UCSF School of Pharmacy leads in NIH funding for 37th year in a row

For the 37th consecutive year, the UCSF School of Pharmacy has received more funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) than any other pharmacy school in the United States. School researchers were awarded $28.2 million in grants during NIH’s 2016 fiscal year, from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016.

Among the top-funded researchers was Kathy Giacomini, PhD, a faculty member in the School’s department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.

Giacomini studies how genetic differences, in particular those that affect membrane transporters, may explain why a drug works in some people but not in others. Her research is helping to overturn the one-size-fits-all approach to treating common conditions, and it may help physicians predict which patients will need higher doses or alternative drugs.

Instead of treating everyone with type 2 diabetes the same way, we may be able to use specific genetic markers to provide a more tailored approach to their medications.

—Kathy Giacomini, PhD


Dean Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm

One recent study looked at the standard first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes—the drug metformin—which works well in about two-thirds of patients but not in the rest. To understand how genetic variations may underlie such variable metformin response, Giacomini co-led a genome-wide association study of more than 10,000 patients of different ethnic backgrounds with her collaborator Ewan Pearson, PhD, professor of diabetic medicine at the University of Dundee in Scotland. The study identified genetic variations in the SLC2A2 gene that encodes for a glucose transporter, which were associated with greater response to metformin.

“Instead of treating everyone with type 2 diabetes the same way, we may be able to use specific genetic markers to provide a more tailored approach to their medications,” said Giacomini.

Another study looked at allopurinol, a common treatment for chronic gout, which also has highly variable results in patients for unknown reasons. Giacomini’s team was able to identify a membrane transporter gene, ABCG2, which was associated with better response to allopurinol.

Such discoveries from the Giacomini Lab highlight the importance of having large, diverse study populations and bring us closer to a precision medicine approach to treating diabetes and other conditions.

Federal grants are ‘lifeblood’ of UCSF’s mission to advance health worldwide

UC San Francisco was the top public recipient of biomedical research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the sixth consecutive year in 2016, and the second-highest recipient among all public and private institutions nationwide, according to annual figures from the NIH.

UCSF’s four schools—the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy—all ranked first in their fields in federal funding for biomedical research and graduate-level training for the fourth consecutive year.

Overall, UCSF researchers in the four schools and in UCSF’s Graduate Division were awarded $577.6 million in NIH grants and contracts, a 3 percent increase over 2015, consistent with UCSF’s average annual increase over the past five years.

These highly competitive funds enable UCSF scientists to advance understanding of the basic biological causes of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and HIV, among many other conditions, with the goal of finding improved therapies for patients.

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School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

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.