Rarely in a University renowned for its modern facilities will
faculty and students decry the laboratory conditions. But the
College of Pharmacy’s facilities, last renovated in the 1970s, are
outdated enough to merit concern.

To rectify the situation, the federal government recently
awarded the school’s investigators with a $2 million grant from the
National Institutes of Health to help renovate the Pharmacy
Research Building located on central campus. Since the NIH requires
the University to match federal funding, the total cost is $4.1
million.

The new laboratories will include facilities for the Center for
Molecular Drug Targeting, a coalition of faculty members
consolidating their research interests to research molecular- and
cellular-based drug therapies.

Both faculty and students said the facility needs updating. The
current facilities are limiting, and though faculty members are
able to get by, there is a risk that working conditions will
decrease productivity, said Henry Mosberg, associate dean for
research and graduate education.

And the outdated facilities have also compromised recruitment
efforts.

“First of all, it’s hard to recruit bright, young graduate and
postdoctoral students if they see rundown facilities when touring
your school. It also hurts you in recruiting new faculty,” said
Pharmacy Dean George Kenyon.

“So this was a nice boost for us, being able to tell people that
we will renovate these labs. The University (Office of the Provost)
has provided some matching funds for this grant,” he added.

One student confirmed that current facilities are not up to
par.

“The equipment that we used was not up-to-date. Especially for
the students, all of it was not modern,” Pharmacy graduate student
Kurt Hammond said. “Some of the lab assignments in my first year
didn’t work because the equipment was faulty. It did not do what we
needed it to do.”

But the new facilities will improve upon current conditions and
will house the CMDT, creating new research opportunities.

Research by the center will attempt to create “drugs that are
more precise, more selective. To invoke a warfare analogy, we’ll
hit the target with a lot of collateral damage,” Mosberg said.

“One part (of the research) is related to a field called
pharmacogenomics. It recognizes that there is a genetic
underpinning to different diseases and a difference to how people
respond to drugs. We can tailor effective therapeutic treatments to
various populations, so it’s not one size fits all,” he added.

Creating tailor-made drugs is a relatively new concept in
pharmaceutical research, which has grown only within the last two
or three years, said Hammond, who is also a representative on the
Pharmacy Student Government Council.

Graduate students have had limited exposure to the topic, but
lectures and electives on pharmacogenomics are available if not
scarce.

Pharmaceutical sciences Prof. Gus Rosania said his research will
contribute to the center because it is based on pharmacogenomics.
Using the college’s resources, he will focus on cancer chemotherapy
because it is the most toxic and least “efficacious” form of
therapy. His research, he hopes, will have wide-ranging
significance.

“To the average person, drug toxicity is a problem that hits the
wallet at least once a month, every time medical insurance benefits
are deducted from the paycheck,” Rosania said.

Rosania added that “the CMDT will centralize resources and
instrumentation that are currently spread over different
laboratories across the entire college, and will foster
communication and collaboration.” Rosania is one of a number of
researchers in the incipient CMDT.

The renovation will take about two years to complete. In the
meantime, faculty, staff and students will have to temporarily
relocate until the project is complete.

Pharmacy facelift

What the NIH money will pay for

* Facilities for the Center for Molecular Drug Targeting, a
group of faculty who research drug therapies

* Research for the growing area of pharmacogenomics, which
investigates how people respond differently to drugs

* Other general renovations of outdated equipment and improved
facilities

 

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