Research in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is overseen by Dr. David Ross, the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies (ADRGS). Dr. Ross serves as the chief research officer of the school and as the school’s lead representative on research matters both internally and externally. His primary responsibilities include facilitating activities in basic, translational and clinical research, implementation of strategic research directions in the school, oversight of grants management, and overseeing graduate studies at the MS and PhD levels.
Personalized or precision medicine necessitates a comprehensive and integrated approach to mechanisms underlying drug action. As described below, while pursuing new initiatives in Clinical and Translational Sciences, Pharmacogenomics, Systems Approaches, Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery, the school also continues to build in its core areas of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Biophysics, Toxicology and Cancer Pharmacology, as well as in Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and multiple clinical specialties.
Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. With its roots in classical pharmaceutics, Pharmaceutical Biotechnology focuses on newer macromolecular pharmaceuticals such as proteins and nucleic acids. Especially relevant for vaccines and therapeutic antibodies, this area of study focuses on stability, formulation and targeted delivery. With co-directors from both the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology is recognized for its innovative research, excellence in PhD education and annual conferences attracting scientists from around the globe.
Biophysics explores the thermodynamic and kinetic mechanisms responsible for biological regulation. Areas of emphasis include analysis of transcription factor-gene promoter interactions; characterization of viral assembly and DNA packaging; and studies of protein stability and misfolding in human diseases.
Toxicology focuses on elucidation of molecular mechanisms of toxicity of drugs and pollutants, and includes metabolic, pharmacogenomics, proteomic and metabolomics approaches. These techniques allow studies of individual susceptibility and isolation of predictive biomarkers of toxicity.
Pharmacology is the study of the effects of drugs on the body including specific effects on cells, tissues or organ systems. Pharmacology is a broad field and specialty areas in the department include cancer pharmacology, neuropharmacology, immuno-pharmacology, antiviral pharmacology, renal pharmacology, and ocular pharmacology.
Clinical and Translational Sciences examines the importance of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and pharmacogenetics that influence clinical response. The Center for Translational Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacogenomics was developed to provide a focus in this area of clinical pharmacology for investigators across the campus and region.
Drug Discovery. Areas of focus include structure based drug design, computational modeling of drug-target interactions and natural product chemistry. The medicinal chemistry focus is supported by three integrated drug discovery core facilities:
The Computational Chemistry and Biochemistry core facility provides molecular docking studies, pharmacophore modeling, ligand design, virtual screening of compound libraries and computational modeling of protein-protein interactions. The Medicinal Chemistry core facility performs synthesis, analysis, metabolic studies and assistance in lead compound optimization. The High Throughput Screening (HTS) core facility performs validation of screens for applications and screening of compound libraries against potential therapeutic targets.
Systems Approaches. Since many of the research applications employed today require the use of combined omic approaches, the department operates a Mass Spectrometry core facility, which provides analytical resources for metabolomics, proteomic and small molecule analysis. These resources facilitate biomarker analysis and allow complete analysis of metabolomics and proteomic changes associated with drugs and toxicants. Bioinformatic approaches and studies of the microbiome allow an integrated systems approach to mechanisms of drug action.
Nanomedicine and Nanosafety. A critical mass of investigators exploit nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery and imaging. Nanoparticles can also induce immune mediated effects and other toxicities so the Colorado Center for Nanomedicine and Nanosafety was established to provide a focus for nano-based research in the state.
Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research is one area of expertise in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and is led by faculty in the Center for Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research. The center has also been recently developed to provide a focus for outcomes research activities in the state.
Colorado Consortium for the Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse. The consortium coordinates Colorado’s response to the misuse of medications such as opioids, stimulants, and sedatives. The consortium’s mission is to reduce prescription drug misuse and abuse in Colorado by developing policies, programs, and partnerships with the many Colorado agencies, organizations, and community coalitions addressing one of the state’s major public health crises.
The Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine (CCPM), based in the School of Medicine, is a major multi-institutional collaboration between the University of Colorado, UCHealth, and Children’s Hospital Colorado. CCPM focuses on personalized medicine research, biobanking of samples across the health system, and application of personalized approaches to clinical care. SSPPS faculty are heavily involved in pharmacogenomic research and the clinical integration of preemptive pharmacogenomic testing to improve the safety and efficacy of drug therapy for patients at UCHealth.