Faculty Profile: Sharyn Baker, PharmD, PhD Professor and Chair of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry Gertrude Parker Heer Chair in Cancer Research

12/04/2015

Though translational scientist Sharyn Baker, PharmD, PhD, is new to Ohio State’s College of Pharmacy, she has long-been a friend and regarded colleague. College associate professor Mitch Phelps, PhD, first met Baker—then at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital—several years ago. "We had some research in common,” said Baker. “My colleagues invited him to an international meeting on pharmacodynamics of anticancer agents, he brought me in to Ohio State for some seminars, and we just kept our communication going, and looked for areas of collaboration.”

This search for collaboration led to a coup for Ohio State. This fall, Baker was named professor and chair of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry and the Gertrude Parker Heer Chair in Cancer Research. She is the first woman in the college’s history to head a division.

Baker’s NIH-funded research program focuses on understanding drug efficiency and toxicity in anti-cancer therapy. She applies findings from her research directly into practice to improve therapeutic outcomes for patients.

Baker’s lab has turned its focus to the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which causes a rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells to accumulate in bone marrow, disrupting production of normal blood cells. Her lab is investigating tyrosine-kinase inhibitors (TKI), which have proved to be effective in treating other forms of leukemia. Baker is working on finding the combinations that are most effective in treating AML. Baker has already seen first-hand effects of her research while at St. Jude’s. Baker and her team were able to give new TKI combinations to child AML patients. “Pediatric AML survivor rates have flattened out,” she explained. Yet, the results of the new therapies were immediately apparent: “We saw kids slated for hospice care running around after the new chemo. It was so exciting seeing our research come full circle like that.”

What drew Baker to Ohio State? “All the exciting opportunities in cancer research,” she said. It’s (The James) one of the best leukemia and cancer centers in the U.S.” Baker also mentioned the many opportunities for collaboration. Besides her work at the college and The James, she is looking forward to exploring collaborations with Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Baker received her PharmD from the University of California at San Francisco, and she completed her clinical residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She completed two fellowships/research associateships at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine before joining the Cancer Therapy and Research Center, Institute for Drug Development in San Antonio, Texas as an assistant member and head of their Pharmacokinetics Section in the Department of Clinical Research. Baker returned to Johns Hopkins as an assistant professor and later as an associate professor of Oncology. She completed her PhD from Erasmus University, and became an associate member at St. Jude’s.

Baker has taught in courses focused on chemistry/drug development, pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics and medical oncology at The University of Tennessee, Rhodes College and Johns Hopkins. She has also mentored several PharmD and PhD fellows who have now developed successful clinical and research careers.

Both Baker and her husband, Alex Sparreboom, PhD (Ohio State professor of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry) have laboratory and office space in the Biomedical Research Tower; Baker’s administrative office is in Riffe Hall.