Update from the Dean - September 2017

Special report on strategic plan progress

Dear School of Pharmacy Family and Friends:

Imagine molecular tools that probe our biology, leading to new therapies. Imagine building new tissues and organs to replace those harmed by disease, or creating nanocontainers that deliver drugs to exactly where they are needed in the body. Imagine a clinic that develops a medication treatment plan tailored to your unique response to drugs.

We’re turning these ideas into reality as we accomplish our goals in Leading Change: Strategic Plan 2015–2020. Behind these ideas—behind all our strides forward in the UCSF School of Pharmacy—is a scientific mindset that underpins everything we do.

Our goals are ambitious—some might say audacious—but the School has never shied from a challenge. To succeed, we’re working across a wide spectrum of research, patient care, and education as we bolster the administrative framework and support the faculty, staff, and alumni behind our success.

Our full strategic plan progress report reviews the School’s work on all 70 objectives, from January 2015 to January 2017. In this newsletter, I’ve highlighted some of the report’s examples and have added updates on progress since January 2017.

Yours sincerely,


B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD
Troy C. Daniels Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
UCSF School of Pharmacy


Driving the development of innovative and precise drugs, medical devices, and diagnostic tests

Here is a sample of our progress on the 22 research objectives detailed in the full strategic plan and progress report:

Flu treatments

New flu drugs are urgently needed, particularly in light of widespread viral resistance. One of our research teams has designed small molecules that bind to the most prevalent and problematic variants of the viral outer protein layer. These molecules disrupt the ability of the virus to reproduce. Modifications of these promising drug lead compounds, for greater specificity and selectivity, could result in durable flu treatments.

Tackling antimalarial drug resistance

We’ve made major progress in tackling antimalarial resistance by designing “hybrid” antimalarials—two molecules linked to a base molecule—that better target disease while greatly reducing side effects. The approach deposits drugs by targeting a chemical reaction inside infected cells, bypassing healthy cells. We’re also determining if this approach will be useful in the treatment of cancer.

Attacking hard targets

A faculty-founded start-up, Circle Pharma, Inc., in collaboration with UC Santa Cruz and Pfizer Inc., is focusing on macrocycles—large cyclic molecules that bypass molecular binding sites, facilitating molecular entry into cells. The increased permeability associated with macrocycles makes them an attractive avenue for attacking “hard-to-drug” targets.

Plotting cell maps

The Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI) was officially launched in March 2016 as a UCSF Organized Research Unit, reporting to me as dean of the School of Pharmacy. Working in close collaboration with UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, and the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, the Institute is facilitating research in cell mapping to reveal quantitative insights about which cellular proteins work together in complexes and, ultimately, how cellular function might be altered and restored. As a first step, we’re exploring cell maps for cancers, neuropsychiatric disorders, and microbial pathogenesis.

Technology and the data derived from it are at the heart of our collaborations.

—Nevan Krogan, PhD
QBI director

Safer opioid pain killer

With worldwide collaborators, we’ve developed a new opioid drug candidate that blocks pain as effectively as morphine, but without dangerous respiratory depression. In addition, this drug candidate apparently does not have the addictive properties of current narcotics.

If you took away any one of these collaborators, it simply wouldn’t have worked.

—Brian Shoichet, PhD
research project co-lead

Cellular construction

Spectacular progress in this area is highlighted by the awarding of a $24 million National Science Foundation grant for a new multi-institution UCSF-administered Center for Cellular Construction, which we co-direct. The new center will unite scientists from engineering, the physical sciences, and computer science to create automated machines out of living cells. Cells build themselves, as well as tissues and organs, through a process called self-organization. As we learn how this process occurs, and how to control it, we will better understand the pathophysiology of diseased tissues. And, someday, we may be able to design biology—not unlike how we design cars, computers, or factories—with amazing implications for human health.

Imagine a world where we can efficiently grow replacement tissues and organs in a dish, or design cells to seek out and repair diseased tissues such as tumors.

—Zev Gartner, PhD
Center for Cellular Construction co-director

New products through bioengineering

We’re developing new materials for regenerative medicine and tissue engineering applications, including gels to treat myocardial infarction-associated cardiac fibrosis and materials to facilitate vascular healing. We are also creating:

  • More efficient performance of cell-based drug screening
  • Microfluidic platforms that efficiently evaluate a large number of drug-like compounds
  • Antibody-based cancer therapies
  • New approaches to disease detection, treatment, and monitoring—for transplant rejection, pressure ulcers, wound healing, and age-related macular degeneration, as examples

The potential for us to develop innovative new approaches to precisely diagnose and treat diseases is absolutely unlimited.

—Tejal Desai, PhD
Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences chair

Regulatory science leadership

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration awarded the UCSF-Stanford Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (UCSF-Stanford CERSI) a five-year grant with up to $25 million in funding to implement a roadmap that includes education, research, and outreach programs in the regulatory sciences. This highly successful center is co-directed by the School, with Stanford University.


Kathy Giacomini, PhD

This new funding is a strong vote of confidence from the FDA that we are on the right path in developing new models and methods for moving drugs and other medical products from the laboratory to clinical trials more efficiently, (and) with greater confidence that they will be safe and effective.

—Kathy Giacomini, PhD
UCSF-Stanford CERSI co-director

Tobacco burden in vulnerable populations

Since December 2015, our faculty members have been part of the San Francisco Cancer Initiative, and have worked to reduce the burden of tobacco in vulnerable populations, including the homeless, in San Francisco. Our research in tobacco control has expanded to consider developments such as the rapidly changing marijuana laws.

Economics of disease

We’re co-leading a Center for Medicare Services project to develop a new model of care for dementia patients and to determine its economic impact on Medicare.

Precision Medicine

Research in the School’s Center for Translational and Policy Research on Personalized Medicine (TRANSPERS) continues to assess the current state of insurer coverage of genetic testing. Insurance coverage of new genomic tests—such as multigene panels, whole exome sequencing, and whole genome sequencing—will be critical if these tests are to be more widely adopted.

By providing the evidence as to who gets access to genetic and other medical tests, we aim to inform health policy to the benefit of all patients nationwide.

—Kathryn Phillips, PhD
TRANSPERS director


Preparing leaders who think critically, work across fields, and lead in rapidly changing marketplaces

Here is a sample of our progress on the 17 education objectives detailed in the full strategic plan and progress report:

PharmD curriculum for 2018 and beyond

We are well on our way to transforming our PharmD degree program for students entering the program in 2018 and beyond. Our goal is for the UCSF PharmD graduate to continue to stand apart, equipped with a powerful combination of scientific mindset, professional skillset, and a patient-centered approach to care.

Students will learn to become science-based thinkers as they consider answers to questions, solutions to problems, and resolutions of issues. They will make ever-growing connections between what they learn. Unique to our curriculum, students will be exposed early and often to UCSF’s groundbreaking research and new directions in clinical care. Pharmacy practice experiences will begin in the very first quarter of the curriculum and reflect the challenges our graduates will face as practicing pharmacists.

The new program will be delivered over three years, year round.

We highly encourage advanced training beyond the PharmD; our students will be ready for it.

Eric Davila

Our aim? Savvy, nimble, compassionate pharmacists who identify and solve problems as a matter of course—pharmacists who lead by thinking logically and scientifically as information around them increases and changes at lightning speed.

—Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH
vice dean

Transforming teaching

Consistent with our transformation of the PharmD curriculum, funding is available to prepare faculty members to transform their teaching, to use innovative teaching methods, and to utilize new assessment methods.

Coursework in regulatory science and translational medicine

We created a certificate program in regulatory sciences, initiated by the UCSF-Stanford Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation. Our faculty members are also developing a new track in regulatory sciences in the current Masters of Translational Medicine program.

Interdisciplinary exposure

We have introduced two programs to expose our PharmD students to interdisciplinary practice:

Clinical Microsystems: First-year medical and pharmacy students are now working together to solve medication problems associated with transitions in care, including a 48-hour discharge phone call program. As another example, medical students have worked with a School faculty mentor in the Medication Outcomes Center to complete a comprehensive drug review, ultimately provided to the UCSF Medical Center’s Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee. The review exposed medical students to “systems thinking” and associated safe medication use.

Pharmacy-Dentistry Project: The School of Pharmacy and School of Dentistry completed an interprofessional education pilot in the Oral Medicine Clinic, a clinic serving patients with multiple chronic diseases and numerous medications. Second- and third-year pharmacy students partnered with third-year dental students to conduct medication reviews prior to a patient's appointment. As a result of this pilot, the dental school is adding a pharmacist to the clinic staff.


Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD

What we have here at UCSF is this unique concentration of students from all the health professions, and we’re taking advantage of it for our pharmacy students. How they learn and how they’ll practice go hand in hand.

—Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD
Oral Medicine Clinic research project co-lead

Patient Care

Reframing how medication needs of patients are met

Here is a sample of our progress on the 8 patient care objectives detailed in the full strategic plan and progress report:

Importance of health information exchange

In collaboration with the UCSF Department of Pharmaceutical Services and Walgreens, we examined barriers and facilitators of adherence to specialty medications. Our research confirms that community pharmacists' access to the electronic medical records of a health system improves the quality of their patient care services, facilitating prior authorizations of medication and improving medication access.

Outcomes research

Also in collaboration with the UCSF Department of Pharmaceutical Services, we’re greatly expanding the use of applied pharmacoeconomics and clinical pharmacogenomics in the Medication Outcomes Center. This shift in priorities will result in far more sophisticated economic analyses, particularly with respect to the appropriate, precise use of high-cost drugs by the UCSF Medical Center.

Treating patients with more precise medications

The School received $220K as one of three UCSF awards in support of strategic initiatives. Our project involves developing a framework for pharmacists to translate results of pharmacogenomic tests into actionable information for patients and their health care providers.

It’s a dream come true—to translate pharmacogenomics discoveries into clinical practice.

—Bani Tamraz, PharmD, PhD
pharmacogenomic clinic creator


Supporting our agents of change—our faculty, staff, and alumni

Here is a sample of our progress on the 13 people objectives detailed in the full strategic plan and progress report:

New faculty leaders

Faculty recruitments, many of them joint efforts, have taken place across all three School departments. The areas are broad: engineering/devices/therapeutic bioengineering, enabling technologies, experiential education, pharmacoeconomics/outcomes research, comprehensive medication management, chemical synthesis of natural product drugs, systems pharmacology, and chemoinformatics/systems pharmacology.

Housing and child care

Faculty housing assistance has been increased with a new program that supports faculty recruitment and retention through assistance with the purchase of a principal residence. This UC-administered program provides first deed of trust loans with a one-year adjustable rate based on an internal UC index.

New temporary housing for new faculty members is now available at both the Parnassus and Mission Bay campuses. Importantly, child care capacity at Mission Bay has been substantially expanded—from 85 to 272 children.

Staff support and engagement

The Dean’s Office has provided matching funds for leadership development for department chairs, their faculty advisory groups, and their faculties and staffs. Staff members with leadership potential are participating in the “Leading the Frontline” training program. After the 2015 Staff Engagement Survey, I began holding regular Town Hall meetings focused on staff issues and the open exchange of ideas, concerns, and successes.

We work with exceptional School staff colleagues in areas from budget to administrative support. Our success is dependent upon them, and they, in turn, depend on the School to create venues for their success.

—Michael Nordberg, MPA/HSA
associate dean of finance and administration

Importance of our alumni

At Alumni Weekend in 2015, 2016, and 2017, the Dean’s Office partnered with the Office of Alumni Relations to develop and present well-attended “Pharmacy Afternoon Programs” about emerging trends in School education, patient care, and research. The programs also recognized important institutional milestones, including the 50th anniversary of the Ninth Floor Project, which forever changed pharmacy education and clinical practice models.

PharmD admissions

The holistic admissions process for the PharmD degree program continues to evolve.

Our post-baccalaureate program is growing and continues to be a successful pipeline of underrepresented and disadvantaged students. A cohort of eight post-baccalaureate students entered the PharmD program in August 2016, twice the average number of entrants in previous years.

Unconscious bias

With the UCSF Office of Diversity and Outreach, we continue to provide valuable training to PharmD students aimed at recognizing unconscious bias and reducing its effects. We recently offered the training to Dean’s Office faculty and staff members.

Framework for Success

Ensuring the School has the framework needed to excel

Here is a sample of our progress on the 10 framework for success objectives detailed in the full strategic plan and progress report:

Support for enabling technology centers

We put forward a proposal for matching funds for a new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance console, which was accepted and funded by the chancellor for $276K. Investments such as this one have resulted in successful submission of grants and contracts by our technology centers.

Philanthropic support

From January 2015 to January 2017, the total number of gifts to the School increased each year. We established two new endowed professorships, funded by gifts from generous alumni.

Online presence

Immediately before the release of the final 2015–2020 School strategic plan, the School launched an integrated web presence on a content management system platform. Five distinct sites were developed—one for the School as a whole, one for each of the School's three departments, and one for the PharmD program. The new presence represents a massive technical move forward. We partnered early with our UCSF information technology colleagues to adopt the platform. As a result, we contributed to the successful campuswide rollout. This effort has substantially advanced our ability to capture the impressive work of the School. More than 40 additional microsites have been developed since the launch.

We have countless stories to tell—about the dogged determination of our scientists, gradual discoveries, Eureka moments, patients helped, students launched, partnerships formed—and now we have a sophisticated platform from which to share them.

—Susan Levings, MS
associate dean of planning and communications

These examples give you a glimpse of our impressive ongoing work. As I reflect upon these successes, I am extremely proud of the efforts of our faculty and dedicated staff, and I look forward to sharing progress with you in future Updates.


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