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Update from the Dean – July 2018
By B. Joseph Guglielmo / Mon Jul 16, 2018
Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy Family and Friends,
School of Pharmacy scientists are pushing back the frontier of disease prevention and treatment. You can read about the trailblazing work of 15 of our faculty members, in five research areas, in the cover story of the summer issue of UCSF Magazine. This article is a terrific introduction to the School’s work—from drug discovery to the best use of drugs in patients—and to the scientific thinking at the root of all our research, education, and patient care.
Our scientific way of thinking gets its legs through research funding. I’m pleased and proud to share that, for the 38th consecutive year, our School faculty received more research funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other pharmacy school in the nation.
Our work continues full speed. Here’s a sample of what’s been happening since I last wrote.
As always, stay tuned.
With warm regards,
B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD
Troy C. Daniels Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
UCSF School of Pharmacy
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When something goes wrong with human health, molecules can be culprits or cures. Our basic science faculty members deftly wield sophisticated research tools to probe biology at the microscopic level—even at the nanoscopic level—all in the pursuit of tomorrow’s therapies.
Decoding cellular signals: Thanks to a new technique developed in the laboratory of James Wells, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, researchers may soon have a less expensive and speedier approach for detecting proteins on the surface of cells.
The technique uses phages (a type of virus) and DNA sequencing to take a census of the many types of proteins that dot a cell. The approach promises to simplify the work of oncologists and tissue histologists, who assess tumors to reveal the most effective cancer therapies.
A trigger for tissue repair: Sometimes, when a nerve is damaged, it responds by liberating specialized proteins that help rebuild the tissue. The lab team of Alma Burlingame, PhD, based in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, recently unveiled a new way to capture and identify a cell’s newborn proteins.
Al’s team collaborated with labs at UCSF, the University of South Carolina, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, to determine how injured neurons quickly sound a molecular alarm to kick-start regeneration.
Seeding tomorrow’s science: Aashish Manglik, MD, PhD, was named a 2018 Pew Biomedical Scholar in June. This award is given to top early-career scientists in the United States. Manglik works on the biochemical pathways that underlie cellular health and serves on the faculty in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, alongside Brian Shoichet, PhD, with whom he collaborated as a doctoral student at Stanford University.
Having discovered a novel molecule that activates opioid receptors without the associated dangerous side effects, Aashish is now shifting gears to understand the “Hedgehog” pathway. This is a signaling pathway involved in cell differentiation, and it plays an important role in the development of various forms of cancer.
Teasing apart the inner workings of human health and disease is a monumental task, and translating discoveries into therapies is just as daunting. Our School of Pharmacy researchers are at the forefront of translational research—harnessing big data, creating custom software, and clearing the path for tomorrow’s cures.
Tackling cancer’s moving targets: Despite the availability of proven cancer therapies, tumors often develop drug resistance. Sourav Bandyopadhyay, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, tested the effects of dozens of available chemotherapies and cancer treatments on hundreds of cancer cell lines, to identify which cell lines—and which cancerous mutations—were leading to resistance.
The work produced a map of gene-drug interactions that successfully predicted the emergence of drug resistance in cancer patients. Sourav’s research lays a foundation for both scientists and clinicians to develop more targeted cancer therapies.
A new big-data-driven look at old drugs: Malaria and tuberculosis are considered to be curable diseases. But millions of people, particularly malnourished children, still regularly succumb to these diseases even while receiving appropriate treatment. Rada Savic, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, is using data collected from dozens of clinics and clinical trials worldwide to find the reason for these needless deaths. As Rada’s team models new drug dosing regimens, the World Health Organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are taking note.
Collaboration: The Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI), the UCSF Organized Research Unit that reports up through me in the School of Pharmacy seeks to solve the most vexing biomedical problems using big data and statistics.
Now in its third year, QBI has been tremendously successful fostering collaborations among diverse research groups. Under Director Nevan Krogan, PhD, it’s also succeeding in creating an expanded culture of inclusivity.
QBI sponsors lively monthly happy hours featuring talks by PhD graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and it regularly curates interviews of QBI faculty members. It has now partnered with Carry The One Radio to produce a podcast series, called Life/Sciences, highlighting QBI-affiliated scientists. The first episode focuses on the development of new therapies for HIV and features David Gordon, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the UCSF-Gladstone Center for AIDS Research.
The genetics of asthma: As a medical student, Esteban G. Burchard, MD, MPH, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, realized that asthma wasn’t being properly treated in minority populations. So he decided to do something about it: He began exploring how human genetics interacts with both rates of asthma as well as patient responses to the standard asthma medication, albuterol.
This year marks Esteban’s 20th year as leader of the UCSF Asthma Collaboratory, whose researchers study the relationship of both genes and the environment to health disparities in children and adolescents with the goal of improving asthma health outcomes.
Part of our School mission is to ensure the right drugs, therapies, and tests actually get to the right patients. That means tracking our treatments and tests to ensure they are working, documenting side effects, and ensuring they are cost-effective.
Using the right drugs: In February, Rosa Rodriguez-Monguio, PhD, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, was appointed director of the department’s Medication Outcomes Center, a research center that ensures safe, cost-effective, equitable, and evidence-based medication use at UCSF Health. Rosa is a heath economist with more than 15 years of experience in pharmaceutical economics and health outcomes research.
Keeping up with the testing boom: Every day, on average, 10 new genetic tests become commercially available. Kathryn Phillips, PhD, a faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and the founding director of the UCSF Center for Translational and Policy Research on Personalized Medicine (TRANSPERS), has spent more than two decades analyzing how advances in genetic testing are approved, adopted, and paid for.
When it comes to doctors picking tests for patients, “this is, in some ways, the Wild West,” she recently told the Washington Post. Phillips published several papers this year, examining the availability of different types of genetic tests and the ongoing hurdles to providing insurance coverage for such tests for those patients who need them.
I shared details in my last Update of our new PharmD curriculum which sets a new standard for incorporating scientific thinking into learning. We’ll welcome our first class of 96 students into the new program at the end of July.
Kudos to the leadership of Vice Dean Sharon Youmans, PharmD, MPH, who directs the transformation of our PharmD curriculum. Sincere thanks to all of our faculty and staff members, alumni, students, and campus colleagues whose counsel is creating a truly exceptional, three-year, year-round, and intensely competency-based integrated program—a program every bit as exceptional as our current four-year curriculum.
We are truly fortunate to have two cohorts of spectacular students moving through two curricula for the next three years. Needless to say, we are busy.
We strongly encourage all of our PharmD graduates to pursue advanced training beyond the PharmD degree, and that training includes postgraduate residencies. The 2018 American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Residency Match took place in March and April with excellent results for members of the Class of 2018.
Of our 86 students who participated in the match, 70 matched for first-year residencies. This is an impressive overall match rate of 83 percent. UCSF’s match rate was the highest among all California pharmacy school graduates and ranked third nationally. Congratulations!
Competition wins: A team of UCSF PharmD Class of 2019 students—Sonya Kedzior, Raymond Totah, Alexi Kimura, and Yeonbi Cho—took first prize at the Pharmacy Quality Alliance PQA Healthcare Quality Innovation Challenge in May, for their project involving improved use of an electronic health record system and increasing the safe use of opioids.
Yiqi Cao, a bioengineering PhD candidate, won the second-place prize in the University of California’s Grad Slam finals in May. This competition included PhD students from all University of California campuses. In three short minutes, Cao detailed a promising methodology to prevent scar tissue buildup associated with the use of heart stents.
Bowl of Hygeia: Kenneth Tham, PharmD ’18, received the Bowl of Hygeia, the School’s highest student honor at the May commencement ceremony. In addition to this award, a number of other students were recognized at the annual Student Awards & Recognition Dinner the week before graduation.
Education scholarship award: Conan MacDougall, PharmD ’02, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, was selected in May for the Emerging Teaching Scholar Award by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Council of Faculties. The award “is designed to recognize excellence of our academic pharmacy faculty members engaged in and/or supporting scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning.”
Celebrating clinical pharmacy science: In June, Allen Tran, PharmD Class of 2019, Erik Henricksen, PharmD, a PGY2 pharmacy specialty resident, and Jennifer Grabowsky, PharmD, volunteer faculty member, all received Rifkind Spring Research Seminar Awards for studies they presented at the 20th annual Department of Clinical Pharmacy Spring Research Seminar. Winners received $1,000 awards, which were made possible by the generosity of Gary and Joyce Rifkind. Gary, a 1960 alumnus, and Joyce were present at the presentation of this year’s awards.
Wide-ranging achievement: In April, Eleanor Vogt, PhD, RPh, was named board president of the American Pharmacists Association Foundation, the association’s research arm. Ellie brings a wealth of experience in education, health policy, and patient advocacy to the position.
A leading researcher: Kathy Giacomini, PhD, was awarded the 2018 Volwiler Research Award by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy in April. Kathy is well-known for her research on the pharmacogenomics of membrane transporters, proteins involved in the movement of drugs across biological membranes. She is also the co-director of the UCSF-Stanford Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation, an organization dedicated to the efficient development and approval of new medical therapies and devices.
Welcome to the Academy: In May, Andrej Sali, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Over the course of his prolific career, Andrej has most notably written software that is used by laboratories worldwide to uncover the shapes of proteins and other large molecules—work that is key to understanding the molecular underpinnings of health and disease.
Building proteins from scratch: William F. DeGrado, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, was recently honored in January with the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award by the American Chemical Society. Bill is a renowned researcher in the field of protein design, and he has been a trailblazer in developing methods for synthesizing artificial proteins. His work holds great potential for the development of new drug therapies and has influenced research into proteins and enzymes not found in nature. In addition to this honor, Bill is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Sustainability in pharmacy: Katherine Gruenberg, PharmD, BCPS, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, was named the winner of the 2018 Sustainability Award faculty category by the UCSF Academic Senate Sustainability Committee. Previously, as a PharmD student and infectious diseases specialty pharmacy resident at UCSF, Katherine developed coursework on sustainability in drug development, distribution, use, and disposal. Her work has been presented at a number of national and international conferences. She won the same award as a resident in 2017, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to sustainability.
This year’s Alumni Weekend was held this past June at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. Once again, the Weekend provided us with a terrific opportunity to celebrate our alumni and to showcase the School’s advances in science and education.
The class of 1968 was honored at the Half Century Club Luncheon, which is open to all alumni who graduated 50 years ago or more. At the Pharmacy Afternoon Program, we shared some of our most exciting research directions and took a sneak peek at our new doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) curriculum.
Kathleen B. Kennedy, PharmD ’78, dean of the College of Pharmacy, Xavier University of Louisiana, received the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award at the gala dinner. Kathleen’s address was a stirring reminder of the importance of service, particularly for the underserved.
Thanks to the Pharmacy Alumni Association and the Alumni Relations team for the continued success of this event.
The School was also honored in May to have three alumni receive UCSF Campaign Alumni Awards in for their illustrious careers. Linda R. Bernstein, PharmD ’77, the president and CEO of the medical communications company Vita Media Corp. and a volunteer clinical professor at our School, was recognized for her work in media and pharmacy. Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD ’88, a faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, received the award for her work developing innovative practice models. And finally, Mahtab Jafari, PharmD ’94, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC Irvine, won the award for developing a unique pre-pharmacy major for undergraduates, her passion for evangelizing healthy lifestyle choices, and her research on botanical extracts and dietary supplements.
A legacy of discovery: Chin-Tzu Peng, PhD, a beloved faculty member in the School for four decades, died on April 10, 2018. Chin-Tzu joined UCSF after earning his PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry at UC Berkeley in 1953. He authored more than 120 journal articles and was among the most distinguished chemists in the field of tritium and liquid scintillation. He is remembered by friends and colleagues for his dogged pursuit of new science, commitment to education and mentorship; and for a legacy of discovery and leadership in chemistry and its clinical applications.
Much has happened on the campus front since I last wrote, including the appointments of a number of new leaders.
Aleksandar Rajkovic, MD, PhD, joined us in May as the first chief genomics officer (CGO) of UCSF Health; he will guide the application of genomic services across the UCSF Health system. This is one of the first such positions in the world. We were very fortunate to recruit Dr. Rajkovic from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he directed reproductive genetics at the Magee-Womens Hospital. His expertise involves the genetics of fertility and reproduction; he additionally coordinated the clinical genetics program for the past decade.
Michael Reddy, DMD, DMSc, joined us in June as the new School of Dentistry dean. Dr. Reddy served as dean at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry prior to his UCSF appointment. He is an internationally renowned periodontics specialist with a well-known commitment to equity and inclusion.
Dr. Reddy supersedes Catherine Gilliss, PhD, RN, FAAN as the newest UCSF dean. Dr. Gilliss joined us last September following deanships both at both Duke University and Yale University.
I welcome and look forward to working with Drs. Rajkovic, Reddy, and Gilliss as UCSF continues to advance health.
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.