Release Date: June 27, 2002
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- This fall, in addition to Biochemical Principles and Human Physiology, students studying to be pharmacists in the University at Buffalo's School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will be taking a course in pharmacogenomics.
UB is believed to be the only school of pharmacy in the nation to require students in its professional pharmacy program to take pharmacogenomics, the study of how data generated by the human-genome project can be used to tailor drug treatments to an individual's genetic makeup.
The subject of well-attended research conferences and peer-reviewed papers, pharmacogenomics generally has been seen more as a field of research than as a necessary part of the professional pharmacy curriculum.
Daniel Brazeau, Ph.D., UB research assistant professor of pharmaceutics, director of UB's Pharmacogenetics Lab and the professor who teaches the course, acknowledges that the field is very new.
"Textbooks on the subject don't even exist yet," he said. "But we think that's precisely why it's important to start teaching it to our students. When our students graduate, they are expected to keep up with the science. We have pharmacists who are working in the profession who are now coming back to school to take this course."
Wayne K. Anderson, Ph.D., dean of the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, noted that research institutions like UB are at their best when research and teaching are complementary.
"Students benefit when they are being taught by faculty who are at the leading edge of their science," he said. "Our students get the material well in advance of other places where the faculty are not so involved in the science."
According to Anderson, the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is emerging as a leader in the field of pharmacogenomics, recently having made key faculty appointments in the field and having made major equipment acquisitions through the support of foundations such as the Kapoor Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, as well as federal support from the National Institutes of Health.
"Our students are getting to see this research from the very beginning," said Anderson. "When they graduate and this technology becomes more commonplace in therapeutic drug management, our students will be at the leading edge of those changes."
The drive to provide a foundation in pharmacogenomics for professional pharmacy students came partly from an emphasis at the school to focus on the new, broader role of the pharmacist as a key health-care provider and, more often than not, the provider with whom patients communicate most often.
"The pharmacist is an important conduit in the community for explaining innovations like these to the general public and for enhancing their understanding of how these technologies may one day play a role in their treatment," Brazeau said.
UB students will learn about how new technologies, such as gene microarrays, can help enhance the drug discovery process and also about how knowledge of individual variations in genetic response can help physicians and pharmacists prescribe better treatments.
The course focuses on the science underlying these advances, including DNA structure, genetic mapping, quantitative genetics and genetic databases.
The UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences also has distinguished itself by offering earlier this year the nation's first master's degree program in pharmaceutics with a focus in pharmacometrics, a new field that involves the analysis and interpretation of data produced in preclinical and clinical trials, much of which now is generated through new computationally intensive tools, such as bioinformatics.