College of Pharmacy: 2020 Year in Review
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a challenging year. The continuing pandemic, confronting anti-black systemic racism, and a contentious season of election politics grabbed the attention of the world and our nation. These stressors were compounded locally by a significant earthquake in March, a hurricane-force windstorm that swept the state in September, and wildfires that threatened our campus in October. But in the worst of times, we often see the best of people. That has certainly been the case at University of Utah Health.
When yet another new challenge presented itself, faculty, staff, and students all emerged heroic. So it is no surprise then that despite the difficulties of 2020, our University of Utah people and teams accomplished so much. Each of our health science deans has compiled a “2020 Year in Review” reflecting ongoing efforts at improving patient care, enhancing student education, advancing research, and serving our local communities. They say hindsight is 2020, and in hindsight, we have accomplished a great deal in this most unusual year. I know you will enjoy reading these 2020 Year In Reviews.
Michael Good, MD
Reviewing the past year at the College of Pharmacy (COP) has been an inspiring experience, as I’ve been reminded of the many accomplishments and contributions made by faculty, staff, and students in 2020.
Although the global pandemic wreaked havoc on classroom instruction and clinical clerkships in 2020, an amazing group of faculty and preceptors adapted rapidly, enabling the class of 2020 to graduate without any COVID-19-related delays. The COP welcomed a new class of 53 PharmD students and 14 PhD students in 2020. The college remains all-in with its commitment to provide a high-value, personalized educational experience. Despite the challenges this year has brought, faculty and students are abuzz with new scholarly activity. We were very pleased to rise in the U.S. News rankings to the 14th ranked college of pharmacy in the country!
Clinical Care and Community Engagement
The Utah Poison Control Center continued its outstanding service to the state of Utah and expanded its operation to serve as the state’s COVID-19 hotline during the pandemic. Faculty and students remain on the front line in pharmacies and clinics across the state, providing thousands of health screenings and immunizations, including of the new coronavirus vaccine.
Based on recent analysis, the COP continues to excel in research productivity and impact. Of the 67 University of Utah departments analyzed, two Pharmacy departments, Pharmacotherapy and Pharmaceutics, rank numbers 1 and 3 respectively in scholarly research index. The college’s external research funding also increased this year to more than $22M. Scholarship and research remain among the most important ways we are having a lasting impact on human health.
Over the last year, the COP experienced some significant funding gains:
- Jiyuan "Jane" Yang, PhD, of the Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery, in collaboration with Jindrich Kopecek, DSc, received a three-year DOD Breast Cancer Research Program grant totaling $1,509,750.
- Chris Reilly, PhD, and colleagues across campus received a $3 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate how air pollutants aggravate asthma.
- The college received a T32 training grant from the NIH to train scientists in developing novel treatments for neurological and neurobehavioral disorders. The grant is directed by Kristen Keefe, PhD.
- Five research groups in the college received almost $1 million from The ALSAM Foundation to support a variety of studies in pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacotherapy.
- The Cell Sheet Tissue Engineering Center renewed a research grant for its project “Development of Clonal BMSC Sheets for Kidney Fibrosis Treatment.” The new renewal amount of $500,000 puts the total research amount at $1.5 million.
- Professor Darrell Davis received CARES funding to advance development of a promising family of antiviral drugs with activity against SARS-CoV-2.
The Anticonvulsant Drug Development (ADD) Program was presented with the first-ever Warriors of Epilepsy Research Award from The Epilepsy Foundation of Utah. The award recognizes an individual or organization whose research efforts have impacted the lives and caregivers of those who have been diagnosed with epilepsy.
Several COP faculty received prestigious professional honors in 2020:
- Linda S. Tyler, PharmD, FASHP, was elected president of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Tyler is Chief Pharmacy Officer at U of U Health, a professor in Department of Pharmacotherapy, and Associate Dean for Pharmacy Practice.
- Distinguished Professor David Grainger, PhD, was awarded the International Award from the European Society for Biomaterials. This award recognizes scientists who have mostly spent their careers outside of Europe, are internationally recognized, have a high scientific profile, and have made major contributions in biomaterials science.
- Marco Bartolato, MD, PhD, was named a U Presidential Scholar. This is a well-deserved honor recognizing Bartolato’s extraordinary academic accomplishments.
- Erin Fox, PharmD, BCPS, FASHP, was appointed to a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine committee to examine the security of the United States medical product supply chain. Fox is senior director of drug information and support services and an associate professor (adjunct) of pharmacotherapy.
- Karen Wilcox, PhD, received the Founders Award from the American Epilepsy Society.
A new partnership between the COP, Huntsman Cancer Institute, and the PIVOT Center has been created. Dubbed the University of Utah Therapeutics Accelerator Hub (U2TAH or “the Accelerator”), it will provide world-class expertise and financial resources for scientists across campus who are interested in translating their discoveries into new treatments for human diseases. The major goal of the Accelerator is to eliminate hurdles that often hinder the process of translating laboratory discoveries into new drugs for patients. We’re very excited about the possibilities afforded by this new partnership.
Passing of a Friend
Sadly, the COP said goodbye to a beloved faculty member in 2020. Distinguished Professor Sung Wan Kim, PhD, passed away in February after a stroke. Kim was a pillar of the college for several decades and one of our most renowned faculty members. A graduate of the university himself, Kim was known throughout the world as a pioneer in the field of pharmaceutics. He was also one of the university’s most productive scholars, publishing more than 500 papers, receiving dozens of patents, training 130 students and postdocs, and founding successful companies. It’s almost impossible to overstate the impact he has had on the U and on the college. With his departmental colleagues and trainees, he made Utah a hub of the pharmaceutics universe, attracting top faculty and students from around the world and sending trainees out to populate the best international universities. We miss Professor Kim but will continue the great work he started here.
Despite the many challenges of 2020, we have adapted and grown. The accomplishments of 2020 will help to propel us forward. Building on our success and renewing our commitment to continued excellence, we can look forward to another great year in 2021!
Randall Peterson, PhD
Randall Peterson is the dean of the College of Pharmacy and L. S. Skaggs Presidential Endowed Professor. A chemical biologist, Peterson’s research utilizes high-throughput screening technologies to discover new drug candidates for cardiovascular and nervous system disorders. Prior to joining University of Utah Health, Peterson was a faculty member and endowed chair at Harvard Medical School, scientific director of the MGH Cardiovascular Research Center, and senior associate member of the Broad Institute.