Update from the Dean: We are rising to the challenges presented by COVID-19

Our COVID-19 response

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy Family and Friends:

I hope this message continues to find you both healthy and sequestered. Much has happened since my March 27 Update, both with the COVID-19 pandemic and the School’s associated response. Again:

The spread of the coronavirus remains volatile, and our best efforts to predict its trajectory are evolving. But there are some significant reasons for hope as of today. The latest model from the University of Washington now predicts a much earlier peak for hospitalizations in California—on or around April 13. That model, which just last week was predicting 5,000 state deaths by August 4, is now predicting 1,600 deaths by that time.

In the Bay Area, thanks to the prompt action of officials and the collaborative preparations of our Bay Area health system, we have not witnessed the spike in infections seen in New York City, and our health system, while burdened, is so far not overwhelmed. That may change, but it’s heartening.

The newest data strongly suggest we are flattening the curve. But make no mistake, this will be a long battle and will require more from all of us. The fact remains that the coronavirus is still in our community, and it’s likely to be there for months to come.

As before, below I share some examples from the growing list of powerful ways members of our School community are contributing directly to fighting the pandemic. I’ll add more details in the coming weeks.

As important as our work may be right now, it’s also important that we look after the mental and emotional well-being of ourselves and our families. We all are dealing with anxieties surrounding unprecedented change, from threats to our own health and that of friends and family, to social isolation and economic disruption. Now is the time to take care of yourself and the people you love.

I welcome your questions or comments in reply to this email.

Stay safe.

With warm regards,


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

School COVID-19 actions


Shuvo Roy, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, is partnering with colleagues at UC Berkeley and supply chain teams to develop personal protective equipment (PPE). Specifically, he is evaluating whether the filtration technology he’s developed for the implantable bioartificial kidney could be repurposed for COVID-19 PPE needs.

A group of enterprising PharmD students are leading PPE donation drives at several Bay Area pharmacies to provide frontline health care workers with necessary safety gear.

Clinical pharmacy care

Under the direction of their Department of Clinical Pharmacy Chair Lisa Kroon, PharmD, faculty members Kathy Yang, PharmD, MPH; Katherine Gruenberg, PharmD; Jennifer Cocohoba, PharmD; Tram Cat, PharmD; and I are ready to provide expertise in critical care pharmacy for a novel COVID-19 unit at St. Francis Memorial Hospital.

I also want to mention alumna Diana Cowell, PharmD ’14, who is serving on the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort in its health mission in New York City. Diana represents one of many of our PharmD alumni who are now on the front lines of this fight, serving patients in pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics.

Drug trials

Rada Savic, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, and Kathy Yang, PharmD, MPH, are working on clinical trials of remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine, two drugs that are being investigated for their potential to treat COVID-19.

At the Drug Research Unit, Director Fran Aweeka, PharmD, and Liusheng Huang, PhD, both Department of Clinical Pharmacy, are developing analytical methods for hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Their work will support any studies on pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics of these drugs.

Medication outcomes

As part of their work in the Medication Outcomes Center to assess medication value, Trang Trinh, PharmD, MPH, and Director Rosa Rodriguez-Monguio, PhD, both Department of Clinical Pharmacy, are evaluating medication use, timing, and outcomes in our COVID-19 patients compared to a case control of patients with other similar viral infections.

Rapid testing

Nadav Ahituv, PhD, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, is working on a rapid testing method for identification of the novel coronavirus.

Antibodies to treat infection

Jim Wells, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, is applying his expertise with antibodies to develop new methods of testing for SARS-CoV-2 and identify potential antibodies to treat infection.

Drug delivery strategies

Tejal Desai, PhD, chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, is working both on nanoparticle delivery strategies for new COVID-19 vaccines and on PPE shortage, developing new N95 filter materials. She is also a co-sponsor of the Johns Hopkins-UCSF COVID-19 Challenge, a student-focused challenge designed to tackle shortages in the health care system related to one of five thematic areas: care staff protection, awareness, transmission prevention, supply design, and access promotion.

Protein chemistry

Aiming at the distinctive molecular spikes that allow the novel coronavirus to infect cells, Bill DeGrado, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, is working on proteins that could bind to those spikes.

Hunting for drugs to repurpose

As mentioned in my previous update, the collaborative QBI Coronavirus Research Group (QCRG)—recently formed within the Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI), an organized research unit in the School of Pharmacy—continues to make headlines clarifying how this novel coronavirus hijacks human cells for its own purpose and identifying currently available drugs that might be repurposed for the treatment of COVID-19.


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.