James Cloyd

James CloydImproving Care of Individuals Suffering from Rare Diseases

Professor James Cloyd’s research and educational interests have focused on medications used to treat rare pediatric neurological disorders, orphan drugs, antiepileptic drugs and clinical neuropharmacology.
Before he joined the University in 1976, he completed his doctoral work and a hospital residency in Kentucky. There, he was involved in projects related to epilepsy drugs and the complex way in which they are absorbed and eliminated.
When he interviewed for two half-time positions at the University, both serendipitously were focused on epilepsy research.
“These two projects launched my academic career,” explained Cloyd.
Throughout his career, Cloyd has worked with collaborating researchers and clinicians to determine how to safely use epileptic medications in pediatric patients. His work with diazepam, a medication used to treat seizures, led to a new protocol for rectal administration allowing family members caring for children with severe epilepsy to administer the drug at home. A research study determined that the protocol reduced emergency department visits by two-thirds in families with children with epilepsy.
“This set me up for a lifelong interest in research and care for rare pediatric neurological disorders,” said Cloyd. The rectal diazepam project eventually led to a FDA-approved product.
Cloyd launched the Center for Orphan Drug Research after Dean Emeritus Marilyn Speedie appointed him to the Lawrence C. Weaver Endowed Chair in Orphan Drug Development. Speedie asked him to leverage his experience in epilepsy and expand the center’s focus to the development of drugs for other rare pediatric neurological disorders.
In 2005, the center opened with a mission to improve the care of individuals suffering from rare diseases through research on new drug therapies; educate health professionals and health profession students; and contribute to the discussion and formulation of public policy relating to rare diseases and orphan drugs—defined as medications used to treat a condition affecting fewer than 200,000 U.S. citizens.
The center uses a multi-disciplinary approach and works collaboratively with the college’s Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development.
“We’re a small program, but we’ve been able to accomplish much because we’re located within a great University"
“We take advantage of those resources,” said Cloyd. 
In addition to research, center personnel are involved in teaching, lecturing, public policy and advocacy.
“What we’re doing is exactly what universities ought to be doing,” said Cloyd. “We’re advocating for innovative approaches to the development of drugs for rare disorders, developing new or improving old therapies, and encouraging collaboration in orphan drug research, particularly at an early stage when nobody else can or should step in.”
Cloyd has received a number of awards throughout his career, including the American Epilepsy Society J. Kiffin Penry Award for Excellence in Epilepsy Care, the Sumner J. Yaffe Lifetime Achievement Award in Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics, the University of Minnesota Morse Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award, the American College of Clinical Pharmacy Education Award, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from his alma mater, Purdue University. He gives credit for his successes to his mentors and colleagues.
“I feel very fortunate to have been given an opportunity to come to the University,” Cloyd said. “People all around me encouraged me to succeed in the academic world and it has been my good fortune to be in the right place at the right time to improve the care of people afflicted with severe neurological problems.”