College News

Biennial Pharmacogenomics Conference a Success

Peter O'DonnellThe 4th University of Minnesota Biennial Pharmacogenomics Conference, Pharmacogenomics and the Path to Higher-Value Healthcare, was held September 21-23, 2022. The College of Pharmacy has been hosting this specialized conference since 2016, drawing in pharmacists, physicians, nurses, health system administrators and students interested in clinical pharmacogenomics (PGx).

This year’s conference saw both repeat attendees and a large number of first-time participants—from rural and urban areas across the country and internationally—reflecting a growing interest in the field of PGx. Having first moved to an online platform in 2020, the conference kept again to a real-time, virtual-only format for 2022 due to lingering concerns about COVID. That pivot, along with the support of sponsors Geneticure, Illumina, Invitae, OneOme, Thermo Fisher Scientific and the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), allowed the conference to keep registration fees low and advance equitable access to expert-led educational opportunities in pharmacogenomics.

For its fourth iteration, the biennial conference featured 30 speakers esteemed in the field of PGx, including experts from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Intermountain Healthcare Pharmacy Services, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, GTMRx Institute, University of Minnesota, University of Montana, UNC Eshelman, University of Florida, University of Pittsburgh, Yale New Haven Health, and others. The 2022 keynote speaker was Peter H. O'Donnell, MD, from the University of Chicago (“Demonstrating the Economic Value of Pharmacogenomics in Clinical Care: Moving Beyond Drug-Gene Associations”). 

The conference also grew to three days for 2022, driven by the introduction of a full-day PGx Clinical Case Workshop. Throughout the conference experts explored numerous topics, new and updated PGx clinical guidelines for medications were presented, as were the novel strategies for educating health professionals in PGx that the College of Pharmacy has recently created. A total of 372 participants registered for Pharmacogenomics and the Path to Higher-Value Healthcare. One hundred fifteen different organizations were represented, including 30 schools and universities. Two hundred forty seven attendees were from Minnesota, five international and 106 from other U.S. locations.

RARE: Stories of Dis-ease Makes Its Debut

The University's Center for Orphan Drug Research and Theatre Arts and Dance Department—in collaboration with rare disease community members—have produced the play “RARE: Stories of Dis-ease” that examines the challenges of those living with rare disorders. Over 7,000 diseases are considered rare, affecting one in ten Americans and their families who face delays in diagnosis and few available effective treatments. The project's goal is to help a state-wide audience gain greater awareness and deeper understanding of the medical, economic, psychologic, and social challenges facing people with rare diseases. Well-known author, Kevin Kling, is the playwright. The production was directed by Luverne Seifert, head of BA Theatre Performance, and Sonja Kuftinec, his colleague in the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance. The play had eight performances in cities across Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota from October 8-23, 2022. This project was made possible thanks to the generosity of many sponsors and donors. A film of a live performance and a documentary showcasing the making of the play will be made available shortly.

Summer College of Pharmacy Experience Program (SCoPE) Completes Second Cohort

SCoPE group outside on the grass on a sunny dayThe University of Minnesota Summer College of Pharmacy Experience (SCoPE) Program aims to provide pharmaceutical career exploration opportunities and adequate technical and professional skills enhancement opportunities to prepare scholars for post-baccalaureate PhD and PharmD program entry. Over two years, funding has been available to cover 17 scholars.

Members of underrepresented minority (URM) groups, first generation college students, and those facing physical, socioeconomic, or social challenges to pharmaceutical science career paths are strongly encouraged to apply for the summer program. The majority of students in this program are from colleges and universities outside of Minnesota, and there have even been several scholars from the University of Puerto Rico. The second cohort applications more than doubled over the first year, and the program was advertised with nearly 100 different baccalaureate institutions with stellar reputations in chemistry and biology fields.

During the 10-week SCoPE program, participants are paired with a faculty advisor who oversee a research-intensive project and aid in the preparation of an Individual Development Plan. The full-time positions allow participants to experience what it is like to be a graduate or professional student in the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy while simultaneously taking part in professional development activities & seminars and exploring career options for those in the pharmaceutical sciences. In fact, some scholars who originally thought they may be interested in a PharmD were "bitten by the research bug" and at the end of their appointments were leaning more toward PhD career options.

SCoPE scholars participate in an end-of-program poster symposium to present the highlights of their summer work. Their research appointments cover drug discovery, mechanism of action, and formulation in therapeutic areas of neurodegeneration, cancer, cardiovascular health, antibiotics, pain, metabolism, and orphan diseases.

At this point, interest in the program and the number of highly qualified applicants outweighs the current program budget. The future of the program includes exploring new ways for expansion.

MNovationRx Recap

In August, the college hosted its first MNovationRx Showcase with around 80 people in attendance. The virtual engagement opportunity highlighted the many ways the College of Pharmacy is leveraging its expertise in pharmacogenomics to shape the future of health care. Attendees heard from faculty members who lead this work, students who learn from these experts, and alumni and community members who are putting the science to work in practice. The event included both pre-recorded video components and live discussion. It was followed by breakout sessions to continue the conversation. 

“It is our hope that more and more alumni will engage with these events so they can continue to learn about the innovation happening at the college and how they might help us advance it in the future,” said Dean Lynda Welage.

Visit z.umn.edu/MNovationRx to watch the video components for this session and learn about the next showcase scheduled for Monday, Oct. 31, 2022 from 12:15-1:15 p.m. CDT.

Student News

  • Elise MooreElise Moore, P2, was the recipient of Walmart Health Equity Scholarship for Pharmacy Students recognizing their leadership, academic success, and commitment to serving rural or medically underserved patient populations upon graduation.  The goal of the scholarship program is to promote and support a diverse population of student pharmacists who will advance health equity. Each awardee will receive a single $5,000 scholarship.

  • The following graduate students are the 2022 recipients of the Hadsall-Uden Award for Pharmacy Advancement. This award is available to students who have research interests in the areas of clinical and/or social and administrative pharmacy.

    • Morgan Bixby, a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology whose advisor is Dr. Betsy Hirsch

    • Dr. Daniel Dauner, a fifth-year graduate student in the  Social and Administrative Pharmacy Graduate Program whose advisor is Dr. Joel Farley.

    • Abdelrahman Saqr, a third year graduate student in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology whose advisor is Dr. Pamala Jacobson.

    • Dr. Lusi Zhang, a second year graduate student in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology whose advisor is Dr. Jeffrey Bishop.

  • The following graduate students are the 2022 recipients of the Olsteins, Bighley, and Rowell Graduate Student Fellowships.

    • The Biruta K. and Peter A. Olstein Fellowship is awarded to a full-time CoP PhD graduate student with exceptional potential in their field.

      • Tian Lan, a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry whose advisors are Dr. Courtney Aldrich and Dr. David Ferguson.

    • The Bighley Graduate Fellowships are awarded to full-time CoP PhD graduate students who have great potential and are conducting research in basic and applied pharmaceutical sciences.

      • Ibrahim Abdelgawad, a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology whose advisor is Dr. Beshay Zordoky.

      • Caroline Bucholz, a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry whose advisor is Dr. William Pomerantz.

      • Yutong Liu, a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry whose advisor is Dr. Gunda Georg.

      • Wenjuan Zhang, a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Pharmaceutics whose advisor is Dr. William Elmquist.

    • The Ted Rowell Graduate Fellowships are awarded to full-time CoP PhD graduate students who are conducting research in basic pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis in nutrition or drug delivery systems. 

      • Conrad Fihn, a seventh-year graduate student in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry whose advisor is Dr. Erin Carlson. 

      • Melanie Nevins, a third-year graduate student in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry whose advisor is Dr. Valerie Pierre.

      • Gerrit Vreeman, a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Pharmaceutics whose advisor is Dr. Changquan Calvin Sun.

  • The following graduate students are the recipients of the 2022 Dr. Christopher N. Honda Graduate Student Fellowship, which is administered by the graduate program in neuroscience. 

  • Congratulations to the 2022 UMN 3 Minute Thesis College of Pharmacy award recipients:

    • Judge's Winner: Alyssa Lantz, Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology

      • Improving HIV prevention medications in women using female genital tissue

      • Alyssa will advance to represent the College of Pharmacy in the University of Minnesota competition on Nov. 10, 2022.

    • Runner UpChenxu Li, Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology

      • Putting Myelin Back on Nerves: Nervonic acid, a Potential Therapeutic for Adrenoleukodystrophy

    • People's ChoiceSneha Rathi, Department of Pharmaceutics

      • A bridge of hope: Translating brain tumor therapies from lab to the clinic!

    • Honorable Mention: Abdelrahman Saqr, Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology

      • The Gut Microbiome: a forgotten organ affects drug disposition!

Faculty & Staff News

Welcome to the College of Pharmacy!

  • Amy BrandtAmy Brandt has been hired, effective Aug. 29, 2022 as the embedded wellness counselor for students. She will offer short-term counseling and referrals for additional services or support for students within the pharmacy, occupational therapy, medical laboratory sciences and physical therapy.
  • Lisa NorrLisa Norr has been hired as the executive associate position for the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences (PPPS) and the College of Pharmacy, Duluth, effective September 1, 2022.

  • Drs. Olihe Okoro and Ann Philbrick have accepted positions as the inaugural collegiate directors of community engagement, effective Aug. 1, 2022.

  • The Clinical Affairs Division has hired Dr. Swetha Pradeep, PharmD ‘18 and PGY1 Residency ‘19, as the FUHN clinical pharmacist supervisor and Dr. Athena Cannon, Leadership Residency ‘22, as the FUHN clinical pharmacist. (See FUHN story above.)

  •  Christine Seaton has been hired as an administrative specialist for the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences (PPPS) and the College of Pharmacy, Duluth, effective Aug. 1, 2022.

  • Dr. Randy Seifert,former associate dean for Students and Professional Affairs, in partnership with Dr. Jason Varin,former director of alumni affairs are shifting their leadership efforts to help shape the future direction of the Office of Professional Affairs under the direction of Dr. Sarah Westberg. Drs. Varin and Seifert will continue to be strong advocates for the profession and connected to all of the college’s alumni and pharmacy family throughout the state.