Advancing the science of human pharmacology and therapeutics through translational research

Faculty in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology conduct clinical and translational research. This cross-disciplinary paradigm translates basic scientific discoveries into safe and effective therapeutic uses by providers and patients, through laboratory experiments and clinical studies. Clinical data can also prompt new questions and investigations, leading back to the bench and beginning a new cycle of translational research.

Research conducted by department faculty can focus on a range of topics, diseases/conditions, and investigational methods. Some current and recent projects are highlighted here:

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease

ApoJ/Clusterin Peptide as a Novel Therapeutic Agent for Alzheimer's Disease

PI:Ling Li
Funding:  Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation

Protective Mechanisms of Statins in Alzheimer's Disease

About the project:
The long-term goal of this project is to elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which statins protect against Alzheimer's disease (AD). Statins are a class of drugs that inhibit the biosynthesis of cholesterol. Currently, over 36 million Americans are taking statins to lower plasma cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease. Interestingly, while retrospective studies show a reduced prevalence of AD in people taking statins, prospective studies report mixed results. Thus, the discrepancy in the clinical data motivates new investigations to define the basic mechanisms through which statins affect cognitive function. This project uses a combination of behavioral, electrophysiological, and biochemical approaches to determine the efficacy of different statins in modulating AD-like behavior and pathology, investigate the effect of statin treatment on synaptic plasticity, and elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which statins exert protective effects. Results from these studies will provide significant insight into the mechanisms by which statins protect against AD so that novel therapies may be developed to combat AD.

PI: Ling Li, PhD
Funding: NIH / National Institute on Aging

Community Health

Community Health

A Community Pharmacy Coordinated Program to Enhance Control of High Blood Pressure and Diabetes in a Suburban Minnesota Community

PI: Jeannine M. Conway
Funding:  Centers for Disease Control/MN Department of Health

Drug Dependence

Drug Dependence

Vaccines for Prescription Opioid and Heroin Abuse

PI:  Angela K. Birnbaum (Co-PI)
Funding: Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation/NIH

Use of Medicinal Nicotine for Preventing Cue-Induced Craving and Withdrawal Symptoms

PI: Michael Kotlyar
Funding: Clearway MN

Use of Medicinal Nicotine for Preventing Cue-Induced Craving and Withdrawal Symptoms

About the project:
This study tests whether using nicotine lozenges prior to exposure to smoking cues attenuates the increase in craving and withdrawal symptoms that occur during cue presentation. Data from the study should determine if instructions to smokers regarding how to properly use nicotine lozenges should be modified from those currently used.

PI: Michael Kotlyar, PharmD
Funding: 2012 Global Research Award for Nicotine Dependence (GRAND), sponsored by Pfizer

Smoker Response to Banning of Menthol-Flavored Cigarettes

About the project:
This study investigates the impact of eliminating menthol cigarettes on smoking behavior, on motivation to quit smoking, and on biomarkers of tobacco-related carcinogen exposure in African-American menthol smokers.

PI: Michael Kotlyar, PharmD
Co-investigators: Dorothy Hatsukami, PhD; Kola Okuyemi, M.D., M.P.H.
Funding: ClearWay Minnesota

Medicinal Nicotine for Preventing Stress-Induced Craving and Withdrawal Symptoms

About the project:
By measuring craving and withdrawal symptoms prior and subsequent to a stress task, this laboratory study will identify the optimal time-frame (relative to the stressor) during which a nicotine lozenge should be used. Data from this study could be used to assess if counseling smokers to use nicotine lozenge in anticipation of a smoking trigger results in higher cessation rates than the current practice of counseling smokers to use these products when they need them (i.e. after symptoms of craving or withdrawal have already occurred). Ultimately this line of research should lead to more effective use of medicinal nicotine and higher smoking cessation success rates.

PI: Michael Kotlyar
Funding: NIH / National Institute on Drug Abuse



Pharmacogenomics and Pharmacokinetics of Lamotrigine in Early Pregnancy

PI: Angela K. Birnbaum (Co-PI)
Funding: Epilepsy Foundation of America, Inc.

Novel Targeted Chemo/Immunotherapy Approach for Localized and Metastatic Prostate Cancer

Co-I: Mark N. Kirstein
Funding: NIH National Cancer Institute

Innovative Drug Discovery Pipeline for Preclinical Development of Novel Drugs

Co-I: Mark N. Kirstein
Funding: Children's Tumor Foundation/Synodos

A Path to Identifying Effective Treatments for Hmong Adults with Gout-Related Comorbidities

Co-PI: Robert Straka
Funding:  Patient-Centered Outcome Research Institute

Pharmacogenetics and Drug Interactions

PI: Richard C. Brundage
Funding: NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Cancer Center Support Grant

Co-I:  Pamala A. Jacobson, Mark N. Kirstein
Funding:  NIH National Cancer Institute

Pharmacogenomics of Transplantation (a project within the program grant Genomics of Kidney Transplantation)

PI: Pamala A. Jacobson (PI) Cancer
Funding:  NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Genomics of Kidney Transplantation – Genomics Core

PI: William S. Oetting
Funding:  NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Pharmacometrics/ Pharmacokinetic modeling

Pharmacometrics/ Pharmacokinetic modeling

Maternal Outcomes and Neurodevelopmental Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs – Pharmacokinetics Laboratory Core

PI: Angela K. Birnbaum Funds: Epilepsy Foundation of America, Inc.

Pharmacogenetics and Drug Interactions

PI: Richard C. Brundage
Funding:  NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences



Characterizing and Predicting Drug Effects on Cognition

About the project:
The study will examine the relationship among exposure to TPM (a second-generation, broad-spectrum antiepileptic drug) as measured by plasma drug levels, its neurophysiological effects, and consequent effect on the cognitive processes observable in everyday language. The long-term goal of the project is to enhance clinical strategies and inform drug development in order to maximize the benefits of individual medication therapy while minimizing adverse cognitive/language-related side effects.

PI: Susan Marino, PhD
Co-investigators: Angela Birnbaum, PhD; Ilo Leppik, M.D.; Serguei Pakhomov, PhD, M.A., M.S.
Funding: NIH / National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Seizure Disorders

Seizure Disorders

Maternal Outcomes and Neurodevelopmental Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs – Pharmacokinetics Laboratory Core

PI: Angela K. Birnbaum
Funding: NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Maternal Outcomes and Neurodevelopmental Effects of Anti-Epileptic Drugs (Pharmacokinetics Core)

About the project:
Part of a 19-site national study exploring drug exposure in women with epilepsy and their children. The goal is to study several populations of women with and without epilepsy in order to compare the effect of antiepileptic drug exposure on the woman and child during pregnancy. Dr. Angela Birnbaum’s research team is performing the pharmacokinetic analyses for this project.

PIs: Kimford J. Meador, M.D.; Page B. Pennell, M.D.; Nancy Browning, PhD (EMMES)
PI of Pharmacokinetics Core: Angela Birnbaum, PhD
Co-investigators of Pharmacokinetics Core: Rory Remmel, PhD; Richard C. Brundage, PhD, PharmD
Funding: NIH / National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Identifying New Therapies for Infantile Spasms

About the project:
Infantile spasms are epileptic seizures in infants which often lead to emergence of other types of seizures, cognitive deficits, and neurodevelopmental disabilities. This project will evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of drug therapies in mouse models of infantile spasms, in order to identify treatments that achieve rapid and sustained suppression of spasms and determine whether these are effective and safe in infantile spasms of various pathologies. The goal of this project is to identify new treatments for infantile spasms that have rapid onset and stop spasms early with anti-epileptic and disease-modifying effects that persist through adulthood.

PIs: Aristea Galanopoulou, M.D., PhD; Rodney Scott, M.D.; Gregory Holmes, M.D.; James Cloyd, PharmD
Co-investigators: Lisa Coles, PhD; Krista Johnson, ECP graduate student
Funding: Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy; Department of Defense

Infectious Disease

Infectious Disease


The Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology (ECP) is located within one of the largest academic health centers in the United States, with nationally recognized programs in public health, medicine, nursing, dentistry, and veterinary medicine. Major campus research facilities include a Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the Biomedical Genomics Center, and the Masonic Cancer Center. In addition, numerous affiliated health care systems with exceptional research and educational programs partner with the COP. The Twin Cities also has a large number of cutting-edge biomedical companies eager to collaborate with the academic community.

Our regular faculty and staff are located in four buildings within the University of Minnesota's Academic Health Center on the Twin Cities campus:

  • Weaver-Densford Hall
  • McGuire Translational Research Facility
  • 717 Delaware
  • Moos Tower

Several ECP faculty also work at clinical sites around the Twin Cities, directing experiential clinical residencies of fourth-year students in the College's PharmD program. These include North Memorial Medical Center and University of Minnesota Medical Center.