The Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at the University of Colorado has received a five-year, $1.4 million training grant from the National Institutes of Health, which will support graduate education and 12 new fellowships in the emerging, interdisciplinary field.
Established in 1997, the center is a joint enterprise between CU-Boulder and the Health Sciences Center - the first of three bridging the two campuses. Teaching and research within the center focuses on developing new ways to make drugs more stable, better methods of delivering drugs to patients and more detailed characterization of complex drug products.
Twelve faculty are currently involved in the center from the fields of chemical engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, pharmaceutics, pharmaceutical biotechnology, molecular toxicology and pediatrics.
"This is a whole new area and we have the best program in the world on it," said chemical engineering professor Ted Randolph, who co-directs the center with Mark Manning and John Carpenter of the School of Pharmacy.
"In its first four years, the center has attracted almost $2 million in direct support from industrial sources and over $6 million in gifts of materials, services and equipment. This is above and beyond the success of our faculty in attracting federal support for their research."
While the pharmaceutical industry puts most of its emphasis on the discovery of new drugs, the CU center is focusing on product development, an area that is equally important, according to Randolph.
"The most potent drug is worthless (and sometimes even dangerous) to the patient if it cannot be maintained in a stable form from the time that it is produced, through shipping, storage and, ultimately, delivery to the patient," he said.
"Formulating a drug for stability during these steps is an obstacle that is at least as limiting to the industry as making the discovery itself. The challenges of pharmaceutical formulation require complex skills derived from pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry and engineering, and the center allows students to address these problems by providing them with a cross-disciplinary education."
The center has developed 14 new graduate courses, ranging from drug development and delivery, to regulatory and business issues, and the ethics of human trials for new drug candidates.
Graduate students who are selected to be NIH fellows in the new program, which started July 1, will work with mentors from the pharmaceutical industry, learning about the work being done in the commercial sector and in many cases collaborating on research. Graduate fellows will receive full tuition, fees, insurance and a stipend for a two-year period.
Twenty pharmaceutical companies in the United States and Europe already have signed up as "There is a huge amount of interest in these students," said Randolph. "I get a call every week from a company asking when students are graduating. We have been graduating about four Ph.D.s per year, and industry could use a lot more."