Giacomini wins 2021 Distinguished Pharmaceutical Scientist Award

BTS faculty member recognized for lifetime achievement

Kathy Giacomini, PhD, received the 2021 Distinguished Pharmaceutical Scientist Award in October for her research on the factors involved in variation in individuals’ drug responses and the mechanisms underlying drug absorption and disposition.

The award is the highest honor given by the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. It recognizes an individual whose lifetime achievements resulted in substantial and lasting contributions to the pharmaceutical sciences.

Giacomini is a faculty member in the UCSF Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences (BTS), a joint department of the Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine.

“It’s really the top award for drug development scientists,” said Deanna Kroetz, PhD, BTS department chair. “It reflects Dr. Giacomini’s entire career and the achievements she’s made during her life.”

Kroetz described Giacomini as a close colleague and an exceptional role model.

“She is just an outstanding scientist and is very collaborative,” said Kroetz. “We all benefit from her collaborations. She’s a mentor to students and faculty alike. She’s really the fabric of our department.”

Giacomini, a former department chair, is also the first woman to receive the award and the first biracial recipient.

“I feel like I broke a glass ceiling for other women,” Giacomini said. “I will now have the opportunity to nominate other women. That makes me the happiest.”

Giacomini said the honor is significant because it represents recognition by her peers, many of whom are from other institutions. But it is also special, she said, because she feels she is following the path of other innovators in her field. Her colleague in BTS, faculty member Les Benet, PhD, was the award’s first recipient in 1989. Yuichi Sugiyama, from the University of Tokyo, served as Giacomini’s mentor for many years and also was a recipient of the award.

Giacomini is a co-founder of the International Transporter Consortium, which brings together scientists from academia, industry, and regulatory agencies from around the world. The organization advances the science of transporter biology to develop drugs with the goal of improving human health.

She also is a principal investigator and co-director of the UCSF-Stanford Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation. CERSIs are collaborations between the U.S. FDA and academic institutions charged with advancing regulatory science through innovative research, training, and scientific exchanges.

“Her career has culminated in that CERSI,” Kroetz said. “UCSF is still recognized as a leader in the science of drug development. We’re in the limelight because of her contributions.”

Giacomini delivered a recorded acceptance speech at AAPS’s PharmSci 360 event on October 17. She separately encouraged aspiring researchers to embrace careers defined by change.

"It’s not like you’re training to be a carpenter, and then you’ll work as a carpenter for the rest of your life,” Giacomini said. “Research is always moving and changing. You have to keep adapting and learning to use the new tools and technology that become available. And you also have to be prepared to go on your own. You have to follow your dreams and walk in your own footsteps.”


School of Pharmacy, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, 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.