Fostering Groundbreaking Discoveries and Advancing Patient Care

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May 6, 2020

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Since 1885, The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy has explored new frontiers in drug discovery and development, pharmaceutical sciences and translational clinical science. Over the last four years, the college has seen the highest totals of NIH and total research funding ever recorded by the college — more than $45 million total. This funding contributed to 57 patents and 79 inventions in the past five years.

The college has made several significant investments into its research program recently, spending 21% of its fiscal year 2019 budget in this area. Research spending has gone to strategic initiatives such as renovating laboratories, moving and renovating its Shared Instrumentation Facility, awarding inaugural Dean’s Innovative Research Awards to support faculty pursuing submission or resubmission of extramural grant proposals, and more.

The college has also continued its important collaborations and partnerships with entities across campus and around the globe. Last year, the college entered a 10-year partnership with The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) to expand drug discovery and development in cancer and cancer-related diseases. Through the agreement, the OSUCCC – James will invest approximately $15 million for renovations of more than 19,300 square feet of the COP Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy space on the third and fourth floors of Parks Hall. An additional $3 million will be allocated toward a Small Molecule Screening Facility, a shared COP and OSUCCC – James resource that will be directed by Blake R. Peterson, PhD, chair of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy and John W. Wolfe Chair in Cancer Research. Researchers at the college have also drawn national attention for consequential research on everything from natural products to infectious diseases to cancer and RNA Nanotechnology, and more.

World-renowned natural products expert A. Douglas Kinghorn, PhD, DSc, professor and Jack L. Beal Chair in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, served as editor in chief of the Journal of Natural Products from 1994-2019 and is the principal investigator of a multidisciplinary project titled, “Discovery of Anticancer Agents of Diverse Natural Origin.” The project’s objective is to discover new natural product anticancer agents from tropical plants, coastal lichens, aquatic cyanobacteria and filamentous fungi. Since coming to Ohio State in 2004, Dr. Kinghorn has published about 140 peer-reviewed original research articles and has received more than $15.7 million in NIH funding. He has served as chair of the Dietary Supplements Expert Committee of the United States Pharmacopeia, and was a chartered member of the Drug Discovery and Molecular Pharmacology (DMP) NIH Study Section.

Sharyn Baker, PharmD, PhD, Gertrude Parker Heer Chair in Cancer Research, professor of Pharmaceutics and Hematology, chair of the Division of Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology, has focused on the preclinical development of anti-cancer agents for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), with an emphasis on small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Dr. Baker’s research interests include translational developmental therapeutics, drug resistance and clinical pharmacology. Her work has resulted in more than 175 peer-reviewed original research articles. Dr. Baker has served on multiple NIH Study Section and Review Panels and is currently a chartered member of the Developmental Therapeutics Study Section at the National Cancer Institute. She has held editorial board appointments with various journals such as the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Peixuan Guo, PhD, professor and Sylvan G. Frank Endowed Chair in the Division of Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology, is the director of The Ohio State University Center for RNA Nanobiotechnology and Nanomedicine. His research has opened doors to new discoveries, including: constructing the first viral DNA packaging motor in vitro (PNAS, 1986); discovering phi29 motor pRNA (Science, 1987); assembling infectious dsDNA viruses (J Virology, 1995); discovering pRNA hexamer (Mol Cell, 1998, featured in Cell); and pioneering RNA nanotechnology (Mol Cell, 1998; JNN, 2003; Nano Letter, 2004, 2005; Nature Nanotechnology 2010, 2011).

Yizhou Dong, PhD, associate professor of Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology, has also made significant contributions in the field of nanotechnology. Dr. Dong is senior author on a study published in January 2020 in Nature Nanotechnology that developed a way to prop up a struggling immune system to enable its fight against sepsis, a deadly condition resulting from the body’s extreme reaction to infection. The team of scientists used nanotechnology to transform donated healthy immune cells into a drug with enhanced power to kill bacteria. He has also published more than 50 articles in prestigious, high-impact journals, and his research has resulted in over 30 patents and inventions. Many of his inventions have been licensed, and several clinical trials are planned to be initiated in the near future.

Mark Mitton-Fry, PhD, assistant professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, and Karl Werbovetz, PhD, professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, serve as co-directors for the Prevention, Detection and Therapies Thematic Program for Ohio State’s Infectious Diseases Institute. The goal of this thematic program is to bring together diverse disciplines to develop new ways to detect pathogens and the diseases they cause – the first step toward prevention.

As our researchers continue their groundbreaking work and service, the college continues to make improvements to better support the research being performed. Late last year, faculty approved a reorganization of the college into five divisions that include three research divisions. Pending approval from the university, the college’s divisions will now include:

  • The Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy (chaired by Blake Peterson, PhD)
  • The Division of Outcomes and Translational Sciences (chaired by Marcia Worley, PhD)
  • The Division of Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology (chaired by Sharyn Baker, PharmD, PhD)
  • The Division of Pharmacy Practice and Science (chaired by Bella Mehta, PharmD)
  • The Division of Pharmacy Education and Innovation (chaired by Kristin Casper, PharmD)

The Division of Outcomes and Translational Sciences was created to drive research in the laboratory, clinic and community to establish best practices that optimize individual and population health and outcomes. Five researchers will focus primarily on clinical outcomes and bedside practice research. The division expects to see significant growth over the next five to seven years.

“Creating this new division in the college will set a trajectory to build a critical mass of researchers with expertise in translational and outcomes research, and will serve as a catalyst for collaborations that will help to optimize medication use and improve health outcomes,” Dr. Worley said. “With this new division, we will build post-graduate training opportunities for the next generation of scientists in these areas, as well. Building on the experience of its members, the division will provide a platform for research collaborations to achieve these goals.”

There has never been a more exciting time at the College of Pharmacy. The changes that the college makes today put us in a better position to continue the groundbreaking research and innovative teaching of tomorrow. The expertise of the college’s researchers and faculty, the dedication of its students and the generous support of its donors make it possible for the college to continue generating breakthrough discoveries and advancing patient care for the next 135 years and beyond.