2020 Mary Anne Koda-Kimble Seed Award for Innovation fuels vital research across the School

The UCSF School of Pharmacy 2020 Mary Anne Koda-Kimble Seed Award for Innovation marks its sixth year of funding, this year supporting research projects in the areas of pharmacy education, cancer treatment, the immune system, and kidney function.

Applicants were encouraged to submit their boldest, riskiest, and most blue-sky ideas—those for which there are no ready or traditional sources of funding.

As the School’s dean from 1998 to 2012, Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD, was relentless in her support for new directions in science, education, and patient care. The Seed Award for Innovation honors her legacy.

Eight projects, described in brief below, were chosen to receive 2020 Seed Awards and will share over $95,000 in total funding.

Learning behaviors in the interprofessional clinical workplace – development and validation of expert and learner knowledge construction instruments

Principal applicant: Leslie Carstensen Floren, PharmD, academic coordinator in the Dean’s Office, UCSF School of Pharmacy

Award funding: $5,400

The project: A career in pharmacy involves collaborating with physicians, nurses, and other health care providers to ensure high-quality and cost-effective care for patients. For that reason, interprofessional pharmacy education, in which PharmD students work and learn alongside other health professionals, is an important, but hard-to-measure, part of PharmD student education. Floren will track PharmD student experiences in interprofessional collaborative practices with the long-term goal of improving these experiences for students and giving students the skills they need to become experts in the health care systems of tomorrow.

Screening technology for Ras-driven cancer

Principal applicant: Jason Gestwicki, PhD, faculty member in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Award funding: $12,600

The project: The Ras family of proteins is vital for normal cellular health, but mutations in these proteins are estimated to cause more than 30 percent of all cancers. Treating Ras-based cancers has proven challenging because the proteins lack binding sites to which drugs can attach. Gestwicki proposes trying to inhibit other proteins, known as molecular chaperones, that Ras needs to function. He'll screen chemicals, looking for compounds that could target specific molecular chaperones. His ultimate aim is to pave the way to treatments to slow or stop Ras-based cancer growth.

Develop covalent protein drugs to target breast cancer

Principal applicant: Lei Wang, PhD, faculty member in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Award funding: $17,500

The project: Covalent drugs, which use a strong chemical bond to attach to a given target, have many advantages over more conventional drugs. Because they bond to a target so strongly, they last longer, require smaller doses, and can work on otherwise un-druggable targets. Unfortunately, proteins don’t normally form new covalent bonds with other proteins, which makes developing covalent protein drugs difficult. Wang is designing antibody-like protein drugs that will selectively home in on a target, and then permanently stick to that target with a covalent bond. He hypothesizes that the drugs will have an improved therapeutic effect on patients. He'll test the approach on human breast cancer cells, targeting a cancer-causing form of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).

Ambulatory antimicrobial prescribing patterns at UCSF primary care clinics

Principal applicant: Trang Trinh, PharmD, MPH, faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy

Award funding: $11,800

The project: The world is running ​out of effective drugs to fight infections as the bacteria that make us sick continue to develop resistance to commonly used antibiotics. Furthermore, the majority of antibiotic use occurs in outpatient settings, and nearly 30 percent of that usage is considered unnecessary. Trinh will evaluate the use of antibiotics at UCSF primary clinics to better understand how antibiotics are prescribed for common infections.

Identifying targeted kinase inhibitors for high-risk oncology patients at UCSF

Principal applicant: Beth Aspel Winger, MD, PhD, faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics (School of Medicine)

Award funding: $15,000

The project: Advances in genomics have enabled oncologists, like Winger, to uncover mutations that drive tumor growth in pediatric patients. But even when these cancer-causing mutations are known, the knowledge hasn’t easily translated into precision therapies for each child. Winger plans to bridge the gap from tumor mutations to precision drug regimens. She’ll use virtual computer simulations to understand how these mutations lead to cancer, then test various drugs for their ability to counteract this process in the laboratory. In collaboration with the UCSF Molecular Tumor Board, she'll assess how this type of research might improve the board’s recommended treatment regimens for cancer. She'll also distill her research into case studies for use by School of Pharmacy PharmD students in the oncology block of their curriculum.

Exploring the role of SLC22A24 in renal tubular reabsorption of drugs and endogenous molecules

Principal applicant: Sook Wah Yee, PhD, professional researcher in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences

Award funding: $7,000

The project: The kidneys play vital roles in health. One of their functions is to filter toxins and other molecules from the blood and release them into the urine for excretion from the body. Interestingly, some of the proteins that release molecules into the urine are capable of actually reabsorbing those molecules from the urine and putting them right back into the bloodstream. Yee will investigate whether one of these filtering proteins, or transporters, is capable of this reabsorption function. She’s ultimately interested in how mutations in this transporter may make patients more or less susceptible to having drugs recirculate in the body instead of being excreted.

A mass spectrometry-based discovery platform to identify novel innate immune checkpoints

Principal applicant: Balyn Zaro, PhD, faculty member in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Award funding: $20,000

The project: The immune system faces a daunting task: it must identify and destroy threats, like harmful bacteria and cancer cells, while sparing the rest of the body. Zaro wants to understand how some cancer cells and bacteria manage to evade the immune system using “don’t-eat-me” proteins that normally exist on healthy cells. These don’t-eat-me proteins are exploited by diseased cells and pathogens. Previous research has shown that antibodies that block don’t-eat-me proteins can unmask these bad actors, allowing macrophages—a type of immune cell—to literally engulf and destroy them. Zaro will sort and analyze immune cells according to whether they’re able to “eat” target cells to determine how immune cells distinguish good cells from bad cells in the body. She hopes the work will lead to therapies that give the immune system a boost during both cancer and bacterial infection, with a specific focus on Lyme disease.

Implementing an advanced practice pharmacist-led community hypertension clinic

Principal applicant: Crystal Zhou, PharmD, faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy

Award funding: $6,409

The project: High blood pressure, known as hypertension, afflicts one in three Americans, but 13 million of those Americans with hypertension are unaware they have the condition, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. With her award, Zhao will bring awareness of hypertension into the community health care setting where she'll provide hypertension patients with access to medication management. Her plan is to implement a hypertension clinic study in which PharmD students screen patients for high blood pressure and recruit volunteers to engage in six months of additional care. Students will work under a collaborative agreement with each patient’s primary care provider, monitoring patient hypertension on a regular basis and supplying education, and lifestyle and medication management tips. The study will compare outcomes between patients who receive and don't receive this additional care for their hypertension.


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.