Update from the Dean: Putting plans in action

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy family and friends,

Building on the collective expertise and insights of our community, the UCSF School of Pharmacy has a new Strategic Plan, published this summer. This living framework sets exciting new strategic directions for the next five years and aligns with our mission, vision, and the campus PRIDE values to make a lasting impact on lives around the world.

The plan outlines key goals that will define our future success and is a North Star for my priorities as dean. It’s gratifying to watch these themes come to life, and each includes leadership contacts charged with monitoring progress:

  • Research
  • Education
  • Patient Care
  • People
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
  • Strategic Support
  • Transformative Partnerships

Thank you for your commitment and contributions to the UCSF School of Pharmacy, some of which I’m thrilled to be able to highlight here, including many breakthroughs with far-reaching implications for health and industry. Our strategy is already proving to be sound—and rich with potential.

By coming together to embrace this shared vision—embodying our global leadership in innovating pharmacy education, biomedical research, and health care—we will continue to lead the way.


Kathy Giacomini

Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm
Troy C. Daniels Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
UCSF School of Pharmacy


Discovering better health and care delivery with rigor

The Kidney Project demonstrates bioartificial kidney viability

bioartificial kidney

Scientists have shown for the first time that kidney cells—housed in an implantable device called a bioreactor—can survive while implanted and mimic several important kidney functions. The findings were published in Nature Communications on August 29, marking an important step forward for The Kidney Project.

School faculty member Shuvo Roy, PhD, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s William H. Fissell, MD, have guided the bioartificial kidney from mere idea to functional prototype, developing a device that can work quietly in the background, like a pacemaker, without triggering the recipient’s immune system to go on the attack.

This new approach to treating kidney failure could one day free people from needing dialysis or having to take harsh drugs to suppress their immune systems after a transplant. On June 12, The Kidney Project was awarded a $1 million Artificial Kidney Prize from KidneyX for advancing its prototype bioartificial kidney toward a full-sized, human scale, with manufacturing and, ultimately, clinical trials on the horizon.

Making sense of scents

a man holds yellow flowers close to his nose.

UCSF scientists led by Aashish Manglik, MD, PhD, have shown for the first time how an odorant, or smell molecule, activates a particular olfactory receptor. The findings, published on March 15 in Nature, broke a longstanding impasse in understanding olfaction—our connection to the world of scent.

With this research, Manglik and his colleagues opened the door to deeper understanding of a class of proteins critical for a range of biological functions well beyond our senses.

Wells honored by University of Chicago

Wells on stage in regalia.

Wells receives honorary degree.

James A. Wells, PhD, has received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science at the University of Chicago Convocation. Widely considered to be a pioneer in the flourishing field of protein engineering, Wells has been recognized for the enormous impact his UCSF lab’s research has had across diverse areas of biology and chemistry.

Giacomini receives Reynold Spector Award

I’m humbled to be able to announce my own recent recognition: In May, I received the 2023 Reynold Spector Award in Clinical Pharmacology and Translational Medicine from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), which aims to promote the growth of pharmacological research.

I was particularly touched to receive an award named after Reynold Spector, MD, a clinical pharmacologist whose influential career spanned academia and industry. I also had the opportunity to present a lecture on my work, titled “Unlocking the Biological and Pharmacological Roles of Drug Transporters.”



Developing health leaders and innovators

Pharmacy students make an impact in Sacramento

group stands in front of a government building.

UCSF PharmD students visited the California state capitol.

On March 8, six of our first-year PharmD students journeyed to Sacramento for Advocacy Day 2023, hosted by the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) and the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP). The day featured talks from pharmacy leaders and government officials, with ample opportunity to mingle and exchange ideas.

The students heard about issues under active consideration by the state, including one bill that would increase pharmacist oversight of pharmacy benefit managers—organizations that determine insurance coverage for specific medications. Another bill would expand pharmacists’ ability to provide preventative HIV medication (PrEP) and reimburse those pharmacists for their work, just as nurses and physicians are reimbursed by insurers for the care they provide.

Gruenberg and Hsia win Emerging Teaching Scholars Award

Gruenberg and Hsia.

Katherine Gruenberg, PharmD, MA, and Stephanie Hsia, PharmD, MA

School faculty members Katherine Gruenberg, PharmD, MA, and Stephanie Hsia, PharmD, MA, both have been named 2023 Emerging Teaching Scholars by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).

Up to five AACP Emerging Teaching Scholars are selected each year for the prestigious award, which recognizes service as well as outstanding contributions to scholarly teaching and pharmacy education.

Students take first place in Value of Industry Pharmacists (VIP) Case Competition

A team of our PharmD students has taken the top spot in the 2022-2023 Value of Industry Pharmacists (VIP) Case Competition. The annual, months-long competition organized by the Industry Pharmacists Organization (IPhO) gives pharmacy students a deeper understanding of the drug development process while fostering cross-functional collaboration.

This year’s competition challenged the teams to use their clinical and scientific knowledge to create a comprehensive clinical, regulatory, medical, and commercial plan that would bring to market a novel drug for the treatment of urothelial carcinoma.

The team, fielded by the UCSF student chapter of IPhO, rose to the top of the 72 participating groups based on their professional and polished slide deck submission and subsequent oral presentation. As a result, team representatives attended the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) Think Tank in August in Washington, DC, and presented their drug development plan.

Welcome, Class of 2026

large group of students wearing white coats facing the audience in a theater holding paper

Students in the Class of 2026 recite the Oath of a Phar­ma­cist.

Culminating a week of orientation sessions that began the PharmD journey for the School’s newest students, the White Coat Ceremony took place at San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre on July 21.

The exceptional Class of 2026 was welcomed with an especially memorable experience thanks to the outstanding coordination efforts of our education staff, including Communications Director Eric Davila, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Pam Schultz, MBA, and Student Affairs Coordinator Julia Shefcik, MFA.


Patient care

Ensuring therapies are precise, safe, and cost-effective

UCSF model influences Medicare dementia care structure

on a park bench a young woman shows an older woman a cellphone.
Andrea Piacquadilo

A caregiver (left) and patient discuss medications and behavioral concerns with their Care Ecosystem team navigator over the phone.

Medicare has taken a momentous step toward making quality dementia care available more broadly across the United States with the release of the GUIDE payment model, which was designed to support the UCSF Care Ecosystem that reduces dangerous medication use and similar models of comprehensive, collaborative dementia care.

Starting July 2024, health systems offering this care model, pioneered at UCSF, will receive a lump sum for all Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) patients enrolled. The move will provide care navigation services that improve quality of life and reduce health care costs.

GUIDE will benefit not only people living with dementia but also their caregivers. The model also requires medication review and support, an evolution that nods to the important work of Kirby Lee, PharmD, a senior author of the study that demonstrated the benefits of including pharmacists in the Care Ecosystem team. Shalini Lynch, PharmD, also contributed to the work.

UCSF launches first pharmacogenomics testing service in California

Tamraz and Kroon

Bani Tamraz, PharmD, PhD, (left) and Lisa Kroon, PharmD, (right) are leading the im­ple­men­ta­tion of UCSF’s new Clin­i­cal Phar­ma­co­ge­no­mics Program.

Bani Tamraz, PharmD, PhD, and Lisa Kroon, PharmD, are leading the implementation of UCSF’s new Clinical Pharmacogenomics Program.

As of May 9, the health care delivered to patients at UCSF Health is systematically informed by patient genomic data. This ensures that prescribed therapies are tailored to individuals’ unique biology, clearing the way for more effective and comfortable treatment journeys and better outcomes.

Only a handful of health care entities worldwide take such a pre-emptive approach to genetic screening in patient care, and UCSF’s is among the most comprehensive to date on the basis of genes and drugs covered.

In its first year, the Clinical Pharmacogenomics Program will be monitored to gauge its use—whether clinicians act on its recommendations, whether patient outcomes improve, and, ultimately, whether expansion is worth further investment.

Competition winners explore telehealth

Sue, Leung, and Zhou.

PharmD students Ryan Sue, Pollyanna Leung, and April Zhou.

A team of students from the PharmD Class of ’24 has been named champions in the 2023 American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) Clinical Research Challenge (CRC), honored for their winning proposal, “Pharmacist Intervention in the Oncology Setting: The Impact of Telehealth Services on Cancer-Related Pain Management.”

The innovative competition began in February, with top scorers advancing to the Letter of Intent (LOI) Submission round. Winners in that round were invited to compete in the final round, Research Protocol Development. A total of 87 teams entered the competition.

Vaccinate the dean

To get a jump on flu season, I participated in our annual “vaccinate the dean” tradition at the School.

The vaccine was administered by Emil Tran, a second-year student pharmacist, under the watchful eye of Associate Clinical Professor Crystal Zhou, PharmD.

Tran and Giacomini
Eric Davila

Emil Tran vaccinates Dean Giacomini.

Tran is vice president of the School’s student chapter of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). He was joined by chapter president Keya Patel, who credited Tran for organizing the ceremony.

The event, which concluded with Tran sharing a proclamation issued by San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed declaring October American Pharmacists Month, exemplifies the increased public recognition pharmacy professionals are receiving, in part due to their health care contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Recognizing excellence and service

Fraser named chair of BTS


James Fraser, PhD

James Fraser, PhD, a professor since 2013 who has served as vice dean of research for the UCSF School of Pharmacy since 2022, became the new chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, effective August 1. BTS is a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine.

Fraser’s research looks at proteins and RNA as dynamic molecules. He is also active in advocacy around open science and scientific publishing, and he recently authored a work in which scientists have created an AI system capable of generating artificial enzymes from scratch.

He said he is excited to build on the department’s strengths in computational biology by identifying ways that transformative advances in AI can accelerate the pace of scientific discovery.

Ahituv appointed director of UCSF Institute for Human Genetics


Nadav Ahituv, PhD

In January, Nadav Ahituv, PhD, was appointed director of the UCSF Institute for Human Genetics (IHG), an Organized Research Unit in the School of Medicine.

Since joining the IHG in 2006, Ahituv has played an integral role in promoting the institute through improving genetics and genomics education, mentoring future geneticists, and increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups to complete doctorates in biomedical research.

Ahituv is an expert in gene regulation and its relationship to human diversity and diseases, including limb malformations, autism, epilepsy, and obesity. His lab is one of the developers of a technique for capturing large amounts of data on gene regulators, leading to pioneering therapies and diagnostics that use gene regulatory elements as targets.

Flowers receives Chancellor Award

© Thor Swift Photography

Nicole Flowers

With tireless, personalized, and creative dedication to UCSF and its students, Nicole Flowers, program manager in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, was awarded the Chancellor Award for Exceptional University Service as part of the 2023 Founders Day Awards.

Flowers was recognized for deeply transforming the Biophysics graduate program by creating an accessible and supportive environment for students.

Faculty hires

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to the following individuals, all of whom have joined the ranks of our faculty since my last writing.

Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences

Department of Clinical Pharmacy

Recent retirements

Congratulations to these faculty and staff members who have embarked on their retirement journeys. We appreciate the contributions they have made to our success and wish them well.

Dean’s Office

June 2022

  • Thomas Kearney, PharmD, professor, associate dean of academic affairs, and interim dean

June 2023

  • Lucia Piriano, curricular affairs assistant

Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences

June 2022

  • Lisa Cabahug, senior manager of administrative and strategic operations
  • Hilary Smith Mahon, faculty support analyst
  • Hubert Sylvester, purchasing analyst

August 2023

  • Deanna Kroetz, PhD, department chair and professor

Deanna garners additional congratulations. While she has retired from UCSF, her professional journey is not over. She started just this month as dean at the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy.

Department of Clinical Pharmacy

June 2022

  • Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, professor and vice chair of clinical innovation

  • Nancy Hessol, MSPH, professor

September 2022

  • Mitra Assemi, PharmD, professor and associate dean of accreditation and quality improvement

October 2022

  • Lisa Wong, administrative assistant

Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry

March 2023

  • Susan Miller, PhD, professor

June 2023

  • Kris Casler, administrative officer


Diversity, equity, and inclusion

Implementing inclusivity and cultural sensitivity

Closing the equity gap in science


Chase Webb, Executive Officer and Founder, BAYS

The UCSF Bay Area Youth Science (BAYS) program prepares high school students from historically excluded backgrounds for STEM careers. Students in the program, which culminates in an eight-week paid research internship, also gain skills in financial competency, career development, and navigating academia.

Housed in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and led by graduate student leaders in Black Excellence in STEM (BE-STEM), the program recruits from Bayview–Hunters Point, one of San Francisco’s most underserved neighborhoods. It also features mentors trained in inclusivity.

BAYS continues investing in student success with a college application boot camp and by creating a bridge for students with PhD aspirations to potentially return to UCSF for the next stage of their scientific careers.

New diversity fellowships support PhD students

Melano and Cruz-González.

Brenda Melano and Sebastián Cruz-González

Brenda Melano and Sebastián Cruz-González, both UC San Francisco graduate students, were named the 2023 recipients of the Genentech-UCSF School of Pharmacy Diversity Fellowships in the program’s inaugural year.

Melano and Cruz-González, who are pursuing PhDs in pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacogenomics (PSPG) and biological and medical informatics (BMI), respectively, each were nominated for the fellowship by their faculty mentors and program directors.

Melano is studying osteosarcoma (bone cancer) from an evolutionary perspective, while Cruz-González is studying to understand how biological aging influences rates of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This summer, Melano and Cruz-González will spend three months carrying out independent research projects at Genentech.


Strategic support

Creating momentum to pursue innovation

NIH funding leader for the 43rd time

In 2022, and for the 43rd consecutive year, the UCSF School of Pharmacy received more research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) than any other pharmacy school in the United States. School researchers netted over $30M to fuel their efforts, which span drug discovery, bioengineering, pharmacokinetics, clinical pharmacy, and more.

The funds were composed of 79 grants spread across the School’s three departments and the Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI). As we have previously shared, last year QBI brought in the largest-ever single NIH grant earned at UCSF.

UCSF totaled more than $823 million in NIH funds campus-wide—setting a new record for the most NIH research dollars awarded to any public research institution in the United States in a single year.

MAK Seed Awards


Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD

Four projects that have the potential to move forward the mission of the School in new ways earned funding through the 2023 Mary Anne Koda-Kimble Seed Award for Innovation this spring. The Seed Awards, now in their ninth year, intend to fuel endeavors for which there is no ready or traditional source of funding.

This year’s awards will help fund research on immune system behavior, genotype-phenotype maps, quantitative nucleic acid measurements, and allosteric coupling.

Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD, was the School’s dean from 1998 to 2012 and is known worldwide as the coeditor of the first patient-centered, therapeutics-focused textbook for schools of pharmacy. The Seed Award for Innovation honors her legacy and was announced in 2012 with a $1 million endowment from the Joseph and Vera Long Foundation.

The winning projects will share about $65,000 in total funding. The recipients are:

  • Balyn Zaro, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
  • Christian Macdonald, PhD, postdoctoral scholar, Fraser Lab, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.
  • Daniel Weisgerber, PhD, postdoctoral researcher, Abate Lab, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.
  • Jonathan Zhang, Biophysics graduate student, Kortemme and Pinney Labs, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.


Transformative partnerships

Teaming up to advance our mission

QBI’s collaborative research infrastructure fuels discovery

Krogan in classroom with colleagues
Susan Merrell

Nevan Krogan, PhD (standing), leads a meeting of the QBI Coronavirus Research Group.

While other researchers focused on developing COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic, Nevan Krogan, PhD, director of UCSF’s Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI), formed a group of international scientists to chart the first roadmap to possible future treatments.

QBI Chief Operating Officer Jacqueline Fabius coordinated the work of the new QBI Coronavirus Research Group, as it swelled to include more than 120 scientists around the world. To reply more nimbly to the fast-moving pandemic, they gave away their research about how the virus attacks cells on social media and teamed up with pharma companies.

The QBI model for breaking down silos among the biosciences—bringing together fields like infectious disease, computational biology, and drug discovery—can revolutionize and streamline collaborative research, outpacing traditional methods of identifying promising therapies.

TRANSPERS and UCSF Precision Medicine join forces with Access and Value Program

Karen Shuster

Kathryn Phillips, PhD

A new collaboration, the UCSF Precision Medicine Access and Value Program, intends to shepherd precision medicine advances—like those in genomic testing—into health care policy and practice.

Housed in UCSF Precision Medicine and led by the Department of Clinical Pharmacy’s Center for Translational and Policy Research on Precision Medicine (TRANSPERS), the program will be led by School faculty member and TRANSPERS Director Kathryn Phillips, PhD, alongside Keith Yamamoto, PhD, director of UCSF Precision Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy.

The program, announced in February, will bring together experts at UCSF and beyond to design and implement applications of precision medicine in the modern health care system. Phillips will also represent UCSF at the National Academy of Medicine Roundtable on Genomics for the second year.

A partnership with Korean regulatory science

Giacomini and delegate.
Eric Davila

On August 22, a delegation from South Korea visited the School and was greeted by myself and several vice deans. Led by the Korea Regulatory Science Center (K-RSC), the delegation engaged with us in information-sharing and to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The visitors were particularly curious about research projects underway in the UCSF-Stanford Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI), which blossomed into a productive discussion about the potential of collaborations between our School and Korean schools of pharmacy.

A new first: Summit of pharmacy deans

The inaugural UC Schools of Pharmacy Deans Summit on June 26 gathered 19 academic leaders to discuss four topics: admissions, experiential education, student affairs, and curriculum.

The deans were welcomed by UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, and included: UC Irvine School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Dean Jan Hirsch, PhD, BSPharm; UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Dean Brookie Best, PharmD, MAS; and myself.

Following a day of breakout discussions, we created a healthy list of action items, and I look forward to reporting back to our extended community on next steps that will build on the momentum of our Strategic Plan.



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.