Update from the Dean – March 2018

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy Family and Friends,

When viewed from the perspectives of federal science funding and national rankings, the UCSF School of Pharmacy is a long-time world leader in research, in innovative and high-quality PharmD and PhD education, and in patient care. Our drive to seek and apply new knowledge underpins everything we do. It’s this methodical approach to discovery that distinguishes the School. Our Positioning and Messaging Guide gives you a strong sense of our continuing and unified story.

I’m proud of where our scientific thinking took us in 2017, and proud to share examples in this Update.

With warm regards,


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

Transforming pharmacy education and practice

Pharmacy is a rapidly changing field—it has to be. Our pharmacy students must thrive and lead in a constantly transforming profession. We must develop pharmacists who think critically and solve the problems tomorrow that are unimaginable today.

We’re meeting this challenge through a new doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) curriculum, through our leadership of advanced pharmacist licensure in California, and with invaluable assistance from our dedicated pharmacy alumni.

A new PharmD curriculum: Starting in July 2018, our PharmD students will learn via a completely revamped curriculum. The goal is to develop a multifaceted and compassionate leader in pharmacy with a scientific mindset and a limitless future. We believe that students who think scientifically are best equipped to advance the profession—in clinics and hospitals, in research and business, and beyond. Highlights:

  • The curriculum will be delivered over three years, year round.
  • The total number of course units and number of academic quarters will remain unchanged from the current curriculum.
  • Classes will be pass/no pass rather than letter graded.
  • Pharmacy practice experiences will begin the very first year and will complement the organ system and disease themes students will be learning in the classroom.
  • Our pioneering research will integrate across the curriculum.
  • Students will hone their inquiry skills through “discovery projects” tailored to their scientific interests.

Not surprisingly, we encourage continued advanced training beyond the PharmD to strengthen professional opportunities. Read our recent interview with Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, for more details on the PharmD curriculum transformation.

As we prepare for a new curriculum, we are equally committed to the success of the current curriculum and the learning of all our exceptional students.

Implementing new practice opportunities for pharmacists: The profession of pharmacy took an enormous stride forward when, in October 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 493, which expands what pharmacists are authorized to do. Lisa Kroon, PharmD, chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, has been partnering with the California State Board of Pharmacy to rapidly implement provisions of the bill.

The legislation: 1) Specifies pharmacists as health care providers; 2) Expands the scope of pharmacy practice with specific training and while working with primary care providers; and 3) Creates a new advanced practice pharmacist license (APh) that allows certified professionals to initiate, adjust, and discontinue drug therapy. The first of these APh pharmacists have been certified in California and are expected to have an impact on the primary care provider shortage, especially in rural areas of the state. Crystal Zhou, PharmD, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, is our first faculty member to be APh certified.

School alumni dedicated to helping newest class: The School has always had an active and engaged Pharmacy Alumni Association (PAA) supporting our PharmD students. PAA members showed their dedication to future graduates again this year by hosting a September mentoring event for the PharmD class of 2021, providing students valuable advice and business cards.

We’ve also created a new LinkedIn group—called UCSF PharmD—where our PharmD students and pharmacy alumni can start the kind of conversations that build professional connections and help students explore career options. Students and alumni can join the group here: [UCSF PharmD LinkedIn group][link defunct].

Smith, Bhat, McCann, Khouderchah

Gregory Smith, PharmD ’92, talks with incoming students (left to right) Harini Bhat, Thalia McCann, and Christy Khouderchah. Smith is an area pharmacy director for Kaiser Permanente.

Competition wins: Our School, represented by PharmD students Maryam Havaei, Lisa Le, and Lisa Nelson, made it to the final round in the American College of Clinical Pharmacy annual clinical pharmacy challenge in October, with Tina Denetclaw, PharmD, as faculty mentor. More than 150 teams competed in the challenge.

PharmD students Claire Bainbridge and Steven Samuels won the clinical skills competition at the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP) “Seminar 2017” in December. We were also proud to have PharmD student Jeremy Borbon recognized by the CSHP with the Student Leadership Award.

More work to do: Too often, patients leave health care offices with inflexible drug regimens they don’t understand. It’s a dangerous and even deadly problem. Pharmacists already play a critical role in hospital and clinic care. However, as I argued in my April 2017 commentary, there’s a need for community pharmacists to do more. New business models and access to medical records are needed to enable our community colleagues to expand services.

Continuous discovery

Craik with student in lab

Charles S. Craik, PhD (right), in the lab with graduate student Starlynn Clarke.

The faculty’s excellence in research was widely acknowledged in 2017.

An elite group: In October, Charles S. Craik, PhD, a Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry faculty member known for his research on enzymes, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Charly joins an organization that has claimed 250 Nobel Prize winners as members, as well as Thomas Jefferson, John James Audubon, Jonas Salk, and two other members of our faculty—James Wells, PhD, and William DeGrado, PhD.

A pioneering scientist: Kathy Giacomini, PhD, a leader in the field of pharmacogenomics, was named the 2017 recipient of the North American Scientific Achievement Award for her seminal work with membrane transporters. Her research is the foundation for an entirely new field of drug candidates. Kathy is a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, and co-leads the UCSF-Stanford Center for Excellence in Regulatory Science. The center works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to improve efficiencies in the development and approval of medical products.

The NIH streak lives on: The School’s 37-year run as the top pharmacy school nationwide in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding remained unbroken, as the School secured $28.2 million in grants through the NIH during the 2016 fiscal year. We expect the same or better result when the official 2017 numbers are tabulated later in March.

Collaborative spirit

At UCSF, there’s always an expert next door. As part of a leading university exclusively focused on health—and improving health through research—our School of Pharmacy faculty members mingle across specialties, across departments, and beyond, creating partnerships that open doors to new directions in research. As a science leader, we readily partner with both the private sector and the government.

From publication to provider: The identification and minimization of medication side effects is an aim of two of our faculty members from very different backgrounds. In a paper published last August in eLife, chemist Brian Shoichet, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, took a machine-learning approach with the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS).

Analyzing more than 8.7 million reports, the authors observed that nearly one percent of reports were duplicate entries of the same adverse event in the same patient. They also found that diseases completely unrelated to a specific drug were erroneously listed as side effects in five percent of reports. This is one reason why FAERS can currently inform but should not be used in isolation.

New models of systemized and well-documented medication monitoring that focus on individual patients need to go hand-in-hand with more accurate FAERS reporting. As an example, health services researcher Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, is developing new protocols at UCSF Medical Center to ensure providers discuss with discharged patients: adherence to their medications, side effects, or any other issue that might affect optimal medication therapy. Adverse events are then carefully and accurately reported back to FAERS.

two people stand next to a Cray supercomputer

A supercomputer in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will be used in Project ATOM, a new public-private project that aims to speed discovery of new drug therapies.

A consortium with a bold goal: In October, the School unveiled its participation in Project ATOM (Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine), a big data project that unites our expertise in government-provided computing power with a private clinical database. The project aims to cut drug discovery time from six years to just one, resulting in setting bold new efficiency standards. Michelle Arkin, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, is the campus faculty representative overseeing the project.

Working across universities: Collaborating with colleagues at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Anat Levit, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in the Shoichet Lab, used computational approaches to identify a novel drug candidate that exclusively affects one dopamine receptor, the D4 receptor. This finding opens the door to more precise treatments for psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia.

A university-wide effort to expose bad science: When it comes to exposing industry manipulation of science, the School has put a firm stake in the ground. Twenty years ago, the School tackled the tobacco industry. This time around, the sugar industry is in its crosshairs. Dorie Apollonio, PhD, MPP, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, co-authored a paper in November 2017 in PLOS Biology revealing how a sugar industry research group covered up rodent studies linking sucrose to hyperlipidemia (a cause of heart disease) and to cancer. The discovery—which arose from a collaboration with School of Dentistry and School of Medicine colleagues—promises more finds hidden in industry documents in the coming years.

Highlighting women in science: Our new organized research unit, the Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI), has made gender diversity part of its mission. In hosting its series on mass spectrometry, QBI brought together mass spec experts for a symposium on February 8 at the UCSF Mission Bay campus. In a field dominated by men, five of the six symposium presenters were women. QBI also organized video messages from women principal investigators, which were broadcast across the globe on February 11 for the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Bioengineering new treatments

Our work includes important developments in medical devices and diagnostic tests, through the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine. The field of bioengineering promises to create the next generation of therapeutic implants, prosthetics, and artificial organs.

Sending drugs where they’re needed: A drug delivery device developed in the lab of department chair Tejal Desai, PhD, treats glaucoma using nanotech “envelopes” that dissolve slowly in the eye. The device, which was the focus of a November 2017 paper in the Journal of Controlled Release, could be a boon to elderly patients and those who struggle with eye drops and repeated applications.

An implantable diabetes treatment: A coin-sized device containing pancreatic islet cells that secrete insulin—also developed in the Desai Lab—is likely to be a viable treatment for diabetes, after acquisition of worldwide rights by biotech company Encellin last year.


Tejal Desai, PhD

The artificial kidney: The dream of replacing dialysis and creating an alternative to short-supply kidney transplants moved closer to reality since my last regular Update. Under the direction of Shuvo Roy, PhD, the team working to create the surgically implantable bioartificial kidney plans to begin safety testing of the device through early-stage clinical trials in humans in the near future. The project was highlighted in an October article in Wired Magazine.

Our public mission

As a part of a public institution, we have a distinct responsibility to serve our community—our patients, our neighbors in San Francisco, and the wider world.

Campus activism on a national issue: UCSF fully supports DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the 2012 program that allowed immigrants who were brought to America without papers as children to remain in the U.S. But DACA is currently at risk. While there is hope for a national solution, the School is dedicated to helping affected students. The White Coat Ceremony for the PharmD Class of 2021 provided an opportunity for us to hear from Ana Cruz, a star student and campus advocate who shared her own story of immigration and activism, and of the support she found in our School.

Cruz in white coat

Ana Cruz, Class of 2018

More than “safari science”: Esteban Burchard, MD, MPH, has been studying the population of Puerto Rico—and its unique gene pool—for a good part of his career, investigating the population’s high asthma rates. When Puerto Rico was hit by a devastating hurricane in September, Andy Zeiger, a junior researcher in the Burchard Lab, took Esteban’s message of “science that gives back” to raise money for water filters to be distributed to parts of the island without power.

staff member holds one water filter and a thank you note.
Centro Neumologia Pediatrica, Puerto Rico

Clinic staff member at Centro Neumologia Pediatrica, Puerto Rico’s largest pediatric pulmonary clinic, expressed thanks for the delivery of 484 water filters. Each filter can clean up to 295 gallons of water per day.

Basic science scholarship for women in developing nations: The Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI) has a broad mandate to foster science partnerships in academia, and to extend science opportunities beyond the U.S. This year, QBI awarded its first scholarship dedicated to supporting women from developing nations. The first recipient, Jacqueline Kyosiimire-Lugemwa, PhD, joined the School from Uganda in January and is focusing her study on HIV.

A decade of science camp: This past June, the School celebrated 10 years of summer science camp, which welcomes fifth- and sixth-grade underrepresented minority students in San Francisco to UCSF for a week of hands-on, inquiry-based science. Originally created by pharmacy student Heather Hertema, PharmD ’10, the camp has spawned careers in science. This spirit is exemplified by Najwa Anasse, who attended the camp in 2007 and returned to UCSF last summer to work at the Gladstone Institutes.

Honors and awards

It takes a talented team of professionals working behind the scenes for us to meet the School’s mission and accomplish our plans.

25 years of exemplary service: Michael Nordberg, MPA/HSA, was honored last year for his enduring professional accomplishments with the 2017 Chancellor Award for Exceptional University Management. Michael began his UCSF career in 1992. As associate dean of finance and administration, he is responsible for the overall management of resources and funding for the School.

Leader, mentor, friend: Perhaps no one has made such outsized contributions to the School as Donald Kishi, PharmD ’68. Don was an integral part of the Ninth Floor Pharmacy Project, which transformed the pharmacy profession from one that focused on preparing and distributing medications to one that now centers on the safe and effective use of medications. After making the transition from student to faculty member and eventually to associate dean, he went on to quietly guide the School’s students, curricula, and research for half a century and counting. Don was honored as 2017 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year, a fitting and well-deserved tribute.

Seed Award for Innovation: The School’s support for bold ideas was once again fueled by the Mary Anne Koda-Kimble Seed Award for Innovation. The breadth of innovative projects funded this year is true to the intent of the award. Eight research projects will share a total of nearly $100,000 in award funding. Awardees are from across the School and range from full faculty members to PharmD and PhD students.

More honors and awards: In early 2017, 15 UCSF faculty members were named to the first cohort of Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigators, including five from the School of Pharmacy. Zev Gartner, PhD; Bo Huang, PhD; and James Wells, PhD, are with the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Adam Abate, PhD, and Tanja Kortemme, PhD, are with the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.

Susan Merrell

Bo Huang, PhD, delivers the Byers Award Lecture, titled “Lights, Camera, Action: Redefining Microscopy to Illuminate Life and Disease.”

Patricia Babbitt, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, was elected a fellow of the International Society for Computational Biology for her pioneering contributions to our understanding of sequence-structure-function connections in enzymes, and to our ability to computationally annotate and predict those connections.

Bo Huang, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, received the 2018 Byers Award in Basic Science for research in advanced microscopy that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in visualization. He delivered the Byers Award Lecture this past January at the Mission Bay campus.

James Wells, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, was selected to receive the 2018 Chemical Biology Lectureship Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS). He will be the keynote speaker for the award symposium at the ACS national meeting in New Orleans this March.

Deanna Kroetz, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, was selected by her alma mater, the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2018.

Gabriel Wong, PharmD Class of 2017, received the Bowl of Hygeia at our PharmD commencement in May. This is the School’s highest honor bestowed upon a graduating student.

New faculty and a retirement in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy:

  • Infectious diseases expert Katherine Gruenberg, PharmD, will help us evaluate the models we use to teach our pharmacy students.
  • Stephanie Hsia, PharmD, will be focusing on her areas of expertise—psychiatric pharmacotherapy and assessment of active learning strategies in pharmacy education.
  • Crystal Zhou, PharmD, whose background is in primary care, is leading the development of the Applied Patient Care Skills component of our new PharmD curriculum.
  • Akinyemi Oni-Orisan, PharmD, PhD, will be investigating therapies for cardiovascular disease, using precision medicine approaches.
  • Maria Rosa Rodriguez-Monguio, PhD, a health economist, has recently joined us as the new director of the Medications Outcomes Center (MOC), where she will be working with newly recruited faculty member Trang Trinh, PharmD, MPH, who specializes in outcomes research and epidemiology.
  • Bret Brodowy, PharmD, our previous MOC director, retired in January. His tenure as director is reflected in his evidence-based approach to ensuring that UCSF Health patients receive the safest and most effective medication therapy.

New faculty member in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry:

  • Aashish Manglik, MD, PhD, is a physician-scientist whose research focuses on the largest group of drug targets in the human body, called the G-protein-coupled receptors. His goal? To understand the most basic principles of these receptors in order to develop safe and effective medications.


Ching C. Wang, PhD

Remembering C.C. Wang

A career that changed the world: Ching C. Wang, PhD, died in August 2017. “CC,” as he was known, was a beloved UCSF School of Pharmacy researcher and professor since 1981, who was known for bringing molecular biology and biochemistry to parasitology, and for his work on the antiparasitic medicine ivermectin. He is remembered by friends and colleagues as a tireless advocate for the School, an impassioned scientist, a top-notch educator and mentor, and a terrific friend.

Campus news

Grand challenges for UCSF: One of the most significant developments on campus since I last wrote is October’s public launch of the next UCSF fundraising campaign, with an initial $5 billion campaign goal—one of the largest fundraising efforts ever set by a U.S. university. The recent $500 million commitment from the Helen Diller Foundation will jump-start the extensive planning process for an architecturally outstanding, energy-efficient, seismically sound, and environmentally sustainable hospital. The new hospital, housed on our Parnassus campus, is scheduled to open its doors before 2030.

Maraha, Arkin, Faber

Ninwe Maraha, PhD; Michelle Arkin, PhD; and Michael Faber at the campus launch event for UCSF: The Campaign in October 2017.

With this campaign, we aim to meet three Grand Challenges:

  • Decode life to improve health by illuminating the complex biology of human beings, using discoveries made at the molecular, cellular, and circuitry levels to fight or prevent diseases.
  • Leverage discovery to revolutionize care by translating discoveries—moving them from basic-science labs to clinical trials and into health care settings—to provide treatments and cures faster and more effectively than ever before.
  • Partner to achieve health equity by applying the same level of scientific rigor that UCSF researchers bring to the laboratory to socially determined obstacles to health, such as poverty and discrimination, by addressing health disparities and building access for everyone to allow all to lead healthier lives.

The School is an important part of this ambitious campaign. I’ll be sharing more information about the effort and opportunities to support School-specific campaign priorities.

Alumni Weekend: Mark your calendars for Alumni Weekend 2018, June 1–2. The central venue this year is the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. Take note that our Half-Century Club Luncheon and Pharmacy Afternoon Program will both take place Friday, June 1. The dinner gala—hosted by the Pharmacy Alumni Association and highlighting the Alumnus of the Year—will be held the evening of Saturday, June 2. Many other terrific activities are being planned. I encourage you to take a look at the full agenda and register today.


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.