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School of Pharmacy emeriti Kollman, Kuntz, and Langridge honored with UCSF Medal
Award highlights importance of curiosity-driven basic science to furthering biomedical discovery
By Levi Gadye / Thu Nov 15, 2018
UC San Francisco was the birthplace of molecular simulation and visualization, two pillars of modern drug discovery. On November 8, three pioneering School of Pharmacy emeritus faculty members were awarded the UCSF Medal for laying the groundwork for these disciplines, which probe biology at the atomic level.
Irwin “Tack” Kuntz, PhD, Robert Langridge, PhD, and the late Peter Kollman, PhD, received medals at a ceremony led by UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, at the Mission Bay Conference Center. Health care activist Byllye Avery and longtime UCSF leader and health policy scholar A. Eugene Washington, MD, MSc, were also honored.
In the 1970s, scientists were limited to using physical, tinker-toy-like models for studying molecular interactions. That decade, Kollman, Kuntz, and Langridge were recruited to the School and pushed the field into the computational era—a daunting task in a time of room-sized computers.
Over the course of their careers, the three developed computer programs for atomistic simulations (Kollman), molecular docking (Kuntz), and molecular graphics (Langridge). The work ushered in a new era of biological experimentation and drug discovery.
“While the contributions of these three computational chemists testify to their individual brilliance, they also reveal the importance of curiosity, broad mindedness, and working across individual specialties,” said School of Pharmacy Dean B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD. “The medal is also a nod to School of Pharmacy Dean Jere Goyan who dared recruit faculty members from ‘non-traditional’ health sciences areas.”
UCSF scientists carry the group’s legacy forward with computational innovations that allow scientists to screen millions of potential drugs at once and observe molecular interactions in virtual reality.
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.