Update from the Dean: Back to school

Our COVID-19 response

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy family and friends:

As our nation, state, and University continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the School’s education, science, and patient care missions boldly progress.

University of Washington models now project nearly 300,000 American COVID-19 deaths by the end of November. We remain hopeful that our medical resources at UC San Francisco and beyond will not be overwhelmed by a new surge of infections. However, the prospect of a prolonged, grinding pandemic is troubling.

While these last few months have been trying, they have also been inspiring. I’m proud of how we have stood together as a community. Notable examples include the speed and safety with which we were able to open our laboratories, our groundbreaking science and treatment of COVID-19, and our inquiry-based curriculum, with a new remote learning environment fostering community and upholding our high standards.

With warm regards,


B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD


Troy C. Daniels Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences

UCSF School of Pharmacy

Welcoming the Class of 2023

Students on video call

Members of the UCSF School of Pharmacy PharmD Class of 2023 participate in a virtual scavenger hunt during orientation.

One of our 2020 success stories has been the matriculation of the Class of 2023. Our newest doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) class attended orientation and the first day of class online. Our students met their mentors, greeted classmates, and bonded, thanks to the well-orchestrated efforts of Associate Dean Cynthia Watchmaker, MBA, MEd; Student Affairs Coordinator Jon Rey, MEd; the Office of Student and Curricular Affairs (OSACA); the Office of Education and Instructional Services (OEIS), and OEIS Interim Director Cynthia V. Zarate.

In addition to the more frequent biology, biochemistry, and pharmaceutical sciences majors, incoming students came to us with bachelor’s degrees in botany, literature, philosophy, physics, and psychology, among others. They came from six states outside of California and 15 countries outside of the United States. Each student brings unique perspectives and talents that will enrich the class and the profession.

During the our School's Town Hall in July, Admissions Director Joel W. Gonzales informed us that applications to our PharmD program increased 23 percent this year. This finding is all the more impressive considering applications to PharmD programs decreased by 20 percent nationally. As Joel said, “we continue to attract, admit, retain, and matriculate a strong cohort of students.”

As described above, the class is also admirably diverse. Of the 128 new class members, 12 percent identify as part of the LGBT community, and 26 percent of students are underrepresented (Black, Filipino, or Hispanic).

Our students’ diverse backgrounds and life experiences will be critical tools as they address the pressing problems of our day, not just COVID-19, but issues of health care access and affordability for all our patients.

Students as partners and teachers

Students giving a presentation

PharmD student Huy Ha, Class of 2021, second from left, helps introduce the student-taught education in pharmacy (STEP) program, along with fellow STEP instructors, to first-year students during orientation, August 2019.

Ever creative and resourceful, our students have been critically important partners in our curriculum. In 2019, PharmD students Leena Dolle and Niamh O’Grady, both Class of 2021, created Student-Taught Education in Pharmacy (STEP). The program, which was supported by a 2019 Mary Anne Koda-Kimble Seed Award for Innovation, provides academic and social support to early-career PharmD students while giving advanced students the opportunity to develop their teaching skills.

This year, STEP moved online, which further increased its popularity. STEP exemplifies the problem-solving and scientific thinking that underlies our PharmD curriculum and demonstrates our strong partnership with our students.

Budget shortfall impact softened for School

I’ve mentioned previously that the University of California is facing a budget shortfall as a result of the pandemic. California’s budget has reduced funding for the UC system and, consequently, UCSF and the School of Pharmacy. While a number of UCSF campus entities and programs are facing staff reductions, our School is not among them.

More specifically, staff reductions and furloughs will not be considered for the School of Pharmacy this academic year. UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, has informed us of our reduced allocation; however, the strong, proactive efforts of Associate Dean Michael Nordberg, MPA/HSA, and his team will soften the impact of this shortfall.

President Drake and shifting student demographics mark historical UC changes


President Michael V. Drake, MD

On July 7, the University of California Board of Regents announced the appointment of Michael V. Drake, MD, as the 21st president of the University of California. President Drake, who is the first Black president in the 152-year history of the UC system, has a long and distinguished career in higher education, most recently as president of The Ohio State University. He served as chancellor of UC Irvine from 2005 to 2014 and as the UC vice president for health affairs from 2000 to 2005.

President Drake succeeds Janet Napolitano, JD, who ably steered the system during challenging times. Under Napolitano, the University of California increased enrollment and access for California students while stabilizing tuition, made UC a leader on climate change and Title IX, and took a high-profile stand supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which resulted in a victory for students in a case heard by the Supreme Court.

We are lucky to have President Drake not only as we face the pandemic and its financial consequences, but also as we push to make health care more equitable.

With respect to confronting racial inequalities, the University of California’s 2020 undergraduate admissions offer a glimmer of hope. Offers to California first-years from underrepresented groups increased by 16 percent from last year. In a first in UC history, Chicanx/Latinx students now comprise the largest ethnic group of admitted first-years, making up 36 percent of new students, up from 34 percent last year. The proportion of African American students inched higher from 4.8 percent to 5 percent. These numbers are a step in the right direction, but we have much work to do.

Serving the community and unlocking COVID-19’s secrets

Erich, Quirante, Vo, and Lum

School faculty, staff, and PharmD students repackaged and distributed personal protective equipment to local pharmacies. From left to right: Julie Erich, Marley Quirante, Christine Vo, and Ernie Lum.

Our School continues to fight the pandemic through both our noteworthy science and our community service.

Under the direction of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, part of the Laurel Heights building was temporarily repurposed to redistribute state-provided personal protective equipment (PPE) to San Francisco Bay Area pharmacies. Senior Operations Manager Marley Quirante and Operations Analyst Julie Erich worked with PharmD student volunteers and the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) to distribute 156,000 masks and 146 gallons of hand sanitizer provided by the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).

In what could be a game-changing discovery for slowing the spread of COVID-19, Aashish Manglik, MD, PhD, faculty member in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, has developed a set of nanobodies, a type of synthetic antibody, that prevent infection of human cells in the laboratory. Should the nanobodies prove effective against the virus in animal models and ultimately clinical trials in humans, Manglik believes a therapy could be produced relatively inexpensively and reshape the global response to the pandemic. The work was carried out under the QBI Coronavirus Research Group (QCRG), the international collaboration created by the UCSF Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI), the School's organized research unit.

magazine cover.

An image in Cell showed viruses emerging from filopodia growing from infected cells.

QCRG continued its impressive COVID-19 work with a surprising finding that was featured on the cover of Cell. The team showed that the virus behind COVID-19 hijacks a large family of human enzymes, known as kinases, to spur the growth of tentacle-like structures, known as filopodia, which sprout from infected cells.

James Fraser, PhD, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences (BTS), was responsible for an additional COVID-19 discovery under the QCRG umbrella. Studying a key enzyme used by the virus, Fraser’s team identified chemical building blocks that might eventually be used to make an antiviral drug.

Building international cooperation and sharing it with the world

A graphic introducing a QBI event titled "Does COVID-19 have the potential to restructure scientific research"

QBI hosts regular panels on science for the general public.

QBI is doing more than leading with its world class science—it is also creating new models of international cooperation and scientific outreach. Recent offerings include Biologists Being Basic, a podcast that invites members of the public to roundtable discussions with scientists about current research; HIV 2020, a live video series on the progress being made toward a cure for HIV; and Science in the Time of Corona, a regular discussion of how science has changed during the pandemic. These and other series can be viewed on QBI TV. QBI’s now-remote symposia, conferences, and seminars are also drawing scientists from around the globe to collaborate on therapies for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases as well as quantitative tools in preparation for future threats to human health.

Groundbreaking research: excipients and end-stage renal disease

Our laboratories are operating at 25 percent of physical capacity, but our discovery science continues to move forward.

Brian Shoichet, PhD, and Kathy Giacomini, PhD, surveyed thousands of common excipients, the supposedly inactive ingredients in drugs, like dyes and filters. They found that nearly 40 of these “inert” compounds interact with human proteins and may cause unwanted side effects. The study was conducted with support from the FDA-funded UCSF-Stanford Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI).

Cartoon of patient using iHemo home dialysis system

iHemo will improve home dialysis and is an important step toward an implantable artificial kidney.

The Kidney Project, a collaboration between UCSF and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), received a $500,000 Phase II KidneyX award to further develop its iHemo implantable dialysis system for trials in humans. The Kidney Project team, led by UCSF’s Shuvo Roy, PhD, and VUMC nephrologist William Fissell, MD, received a Phase I Kidney X award in 2019 and has since successfully tested a prototype device in an animal model. iHemo will enable home dialysis for patients with end-stage renal disease and the technology will eventually be applied toward a fully implantable, bioartificial kidney.


Jeroen Jansen, PhD

A new faculty member

I would like to welcome Jeroen Jansen, PhD, as a faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy. Jeroen’s research lies at the intersection of evidence synthesis, biostatistics, health economics, and health technologies. He joined the Center for Translational and Policy Research on Personalized Medicine (TRANSPERS) this past April.

Sustainability awards

I’m proud to report our School received several LivingGreen certifications from the Office of Sustainability. The University of California system has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025 and the School of Pharmacy will do everything it can to help us get there.

The Department of Clinical Pharmacy office at Laurel Heights and the Department of Clinical Pharmacy office at Parnassus similarly earned Platinum LivingGreen Offices certifications, which recognizes offices, labs, clinics, units, and event planning teams that actively seek to reduce waste and the use of energy, water, and toxic chemicals, while encouraging a culture of sustainability.

The Department of Clinical Pharmacy Drug Research Unit at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital received a Silver LivingGreen Labs certification.

Operations Administrative Assistant Angela Galvis, MBA, and Documentation and Compliance Analyst Angela Kimura, both staff members in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, received Silver Green Event Planner certifications. Graduate Program Administrator Sarah Jane Taylor, in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, received a Bronze Green Event Planner certification. Congratulations to all.


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.