2009–2014: The Giacomini-Nelson Co-chairship
Nelson, Desai, and Roy became primary faculty members in the newly established joint department. Five outstanding young scientists, Adam Abate, PhD; Sourav Bandyopadhyay, PhD; James Fraser, PhD; Ryan Hernandez, PhD; and Rada Savic, PhD, were recruited for their strengths in pharmacogenomics, cellular and molecular engineering, and computational and systems biology.
In addition, the ongoing UCSF-UCB joint PhD program in Bioengineering continued to thrive under the new department, and in 2014 was ranked seventh in the country by U.S. News and World Report—the best ranking to date. The success of this program propelled the formation of a proposed Master of Translational Medicine, led initially by Desai and then in 2013 by Roy. The new program, which received official approval by the University in 2012, was designed to train students in applying translational research and engineering approaches to solving fundamental problems in health care delivery. This joint UCSF-UCB program encourages individuals with backgrounds in engineering, life science, medicine, nursing, dentistry, and pharmacy to apply.
The PSPG graduate program gained new leadership in 2010 under Kroetz, who expanded on department initiatives, emphasizing systems and quantitative pharmacology in particular and forging new relationships with QB3 and the Biological and Medical Informatics (BMI), Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB), and Biophysics (BI) PhD programs.
Center for Quantitative Pharmacology
A wide-ranging two-day conference entitled “Accelerating Predictive Drug Development through Innovations in Quantitative Pharmacology” inaugurated a new UCSF Center for Quantitative Pharmacology (housed in BTS) in September of 2011. The creation of the new center was inspired by the worldwide need to develop and apply quantitative methods to drug development. Quantitative and systems pharmacology facilitates drug discovery, the analysis of pre-clinical trials, regulatory clinical trials, and post-marketing information. The symposium was dedicated to the memory of Lewis B. Sheiner, MD, who developed the technology and scientific platforms that initiated the field of pharmacometrics and together with Stuart Beal created NONMEM. He also pioneered data integration, which dramatically shrank the time and resources needed for clinical studies and drug development.
The department concurrently established the Sheiner-Beal Pharmacometrics Award within the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (ASCPT) organization. This award recognizes outstanding achievements at the forefront of research or leadership in pharmacometrics, and rapidly became the premier pharmacometrics recognition in the world.
Biomedical Micro and Nanotechnology Core
The department established the Biomedical Micro and Nanotechnology Core (BMNC) Facility, which fosters research in the development of therapeutic devices. The BMNC houses micro- and nano-fabrication technologies instrumental in the creation of miniature devices and tools for biomedical research in drug delivery, tissue engineering, point-of-care diagnostics, surgical tools, and bioartificial organs. The facility, the first of its kind at UCSF, serves as the UCSF home for The Kidney Project, a national research project for the creation of a small, compact, surgically implanted and freestanding bioartificial kidney to treat end stage renal disease. Shuvo Roy, PhD, serves as the technical director and co-director of the national project.
Federal and other grant support to department faculty continued to rise during the years from 2009 to 2014, despite budget reductions at NIH. In 2012, the department achieved its highest-ever federal grant support, with more than $14 million in federal grants, as well as more than $5.5 million from non-federal sources. These record levels of federal grant support reflect the department’s outstanding faculty and research programs.
In May of 2014, the FDA launched its first West Coast Regulatory Science Center, the UCSF-Stanford Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI). The Center—with co-directors Giacomini (BTS) from UCSF and Russ B. Altman, MD, PhD, from Stanford—was formally launched with an initial FDA grant of $3.3 million. The purpose of the Center is to spur innovation, development, and evaluation of safer and more effective medical products. It focuses on improving the safety and efficacy of drug testing performed prior to human trials, improving clinical trials and evaluation, and using computational bioinformatics approaches—also known as quantitative pharmacology—to harness and dissect vast quantities of diverse data to accelerate and improve the development of new therapeutics. Such research and technologies will support the FDA’s ability to assess new drug safety and efficacy.
In June 2014, the BTS department—in partnership with QB3 and the Department of Surgery—founded the Rosenman Institute, which has the mission to drive medical device innovation and education at UCSF and to improve patient care by helping entrepreneurs develop technologies from concept through commercialization.
Major departmental scientific contributions (2009–2014)
- Discovered drug-like small molecules from the human microbiota
- Published the largest pharmacogenetic study of asthma in U.S. minority children, identifying genetic variants that predict high and low responders to albuterol, the most commonly prescribed asthma medication in the world
- Department continued to serve as home of the Pharmacogenetics of Membrane Transporters Program within the NIH Pharmacogenomics Research Network, under Giacomini’s leadership
- Determined the molecular architecture of the entire 26S proteasome
- Published the BDDCS classification and associated experimental and in silico data for more than 900 drugs
Image credit for BTS launch party images: © majedphoto.com