2022 Koda-Kimble Seed Awards fuel the School’s most innovative ideas

Seven projects devoted to the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s boldest and riskiest ideas in research, patient care, and education earned the 2022 Mary Anne Koda-Kimble Seed Awards for Innovation this spring. Given in honor of the School’s former dean, the Seed Awards are intended to fuel endeavors for which there is no ready or traditional source of funding.

The awards will help fund research on cancer biology, scientific mentorship of youth from underserved communities, and a waste recycling program for pharmacies, among other projects.

Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD, was the School’s dean from 1998 to 2012. The Seed Award for Innovation honors her legacy.

The winning projects, spearheaded by students, post-doctoral scholars, and staff members in the School, will share approximately $95,000 in total funding.

Effectiveness of oral anticoagulants reducing incidence of dementia in low stroke-risk older patients with atrial fibrillation: A pilot cohort study applying novel sensitivity analysis

Principal applicant: Zhixin Lun, postdoctoral scholar, Department of Clinical Pharmacy

The project: There is no cure for dementia, which affects over 50 million people worldwide. Oral anticoagulants (OACs), which are drugs that prevent blood clotting, are used to treat atrial fibrillation (AF, or irregular heartbeat), and may also be beneficial in preventing dementia. However, current guidelines recommend using OACs only in AF patients who also have a high risk of stroke. Lun will carry out a retrospective study of the impact of OAC treatment on dementia risk in people with atrial fibrillation who aren’t at a high risk of stroke, laying the groundwork for expanding the guidelines for using these drugs in a wider group of people.

Pilot study by Alliance for Pharmacy Sustainability to promote and implement pharmacy stock bottle recycling programs in pharmacies within the greater San Francisco Bay Area

Principal applicant: Aiko Tompkins, PharmD student, class of 2023

The project: Pharmacies produce a lot of trash, but they do not typically recycle the plastic stock bottles used to store medications. Tompkins will recruit independent pharmacies from across the Bay Area to participate in a stock bottle recycling program. Each pharmacy will be compensated for the work required to recycle its stock bottles, and Tompkins will track whether the program brings cost savings to each pharmacy—a critical prerequisite for encouraging all pharmacies to adopt the new practice.

Elucidating cellular impacts of Hsp-independent CHIP ubiquitination on proteostasis

Principal applicant: Emily Connelly, PhD student, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics Graduate Program

The project: Connelly will follow up on recent findings from the Craik and Gestwicki labs regarding an enzyme, known as C-terminus of HSC-70 interacting protein (CHIP), which is believed to play an important role in a variety of disease conditions. CHIP tags proteins for degradation, a process that can keep cancer cells from multiplying or toxic proteins from accumulating in the brain. Connelly will study how CHIP works in a viral model, which may provide insights for treating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Health Education And Literacy Rx (HEAL-Rx) for diverse populations by PharmD students

Principal applicant: Sukhmanpreet Kaur, PharmD student, class of 2023

The project: Kaur will lead the creation of a library of YouTube videos that instruct patients on the use of medical devices, like asthma inhalers and glucose monitors, in a wide range of languages. With the rising importance of telehealth, and the need for effective communication between pharmacists and patients, these videos will ensure that all patients are able to benefit from medical devices. Students will collaborate with each other and faculty members to produce how-to videos in a variety of languages, and each video will be reviewed for accuracy by pharmacy experts with fluency in a given language.

Improved design of protein functions using deep learning

Principal applicant: Benjamin Orr, PhD student, Biophysics Graduate Program

The project: Orr will use existing computational methods that predict the shape of proteins based on their sequences to build completely novel, or de novo, proteins. Orr intends to go a step further than published methods by creating new functions for proteins, a critical step in designing de novo proteins that can overcome long standing scientific challenges and ultimately lead to new disease therapies. The work will also bring together the expertise of the Kortemme and Keiser laboratories, which have not previously collaborated.

Targeting drug tolerant persister cells to prevent cancer evolution under pharmacological pressure

Principal applicant: Dmitry Kuchenov, postdoctoral scholar, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences

The project: Persister cells are cancerous cells that linger in the body long after the removal or destruction of a tumor and can lead to cancer relapse years after treatment. The drug NH125 is capable of destroying these persister cells, and Kuchenov intends to investigate how NH125 exploits their biological weaknesses. Kuchenov will carry out a genetic screen of persister cells being treated with NH125, work that promises to illuminate the molecular pathways enabling the drug’s effects and point to new avenues for preventing cancer relapse.

BAYS Program: Creating pipelines to UCSF

Principal applicants: Emma Gunderson, staff member, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Chase Webb, PhD student, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics Graduate Program

The project: Inspired by the renewed dialogue around race and equity that swept the nation in 2020, Gunderson and Webb fundraised from the community to launch the Bay Area Youth Science (BAYS) Program, which provides paid opportunities in science for underserved youth. The program delivered a lecture series on science topics and careers at a high school in the Bayview/Hunters Point district of San Francisco and then recruited seven students to participate in its first internship cohort. Each intern carried out an eight-week-long independent research project in a UCSF laboratory with the assistance of a scientist mentor, participated in journal clubs, and received college application counseling. Funding from the Seed Awards will support the program’s second cohort of interns and enable the compensation of graduate student mentors and career counselors.


School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program, BMI, QBC, CCB, PSPG, Bioinformatics, Biophysics

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.