Bridging Scientific Discoveries With Disease Treatment

AACP Article

The University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences launched the first pharmacy school-based M.S. in clinical and translational therapeutics degree program in the country.

By Joseph A. Cantlupe

More colleges are embracing the need to coordinate medical research training from “bench to bedside” through clinical pharmacy and translational science. The National Institutes of Health has emphasized the importance of clinicians working on research with healthcare teams. There is a significant need for student pharmacists and other healthcare professional students to gain this advanced training as the “nation faces a critical decline of clinical scientists with experience in both patient care and research,” the NIH noted.

The University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is going one step further in its academic programs, becoming the only pharmacy school-based program of its kind in the country, offering a Master of Science degree program in clinical and translational therapeutics. “The synergy between pharmacy together with the clinical and translational sciences facilitated the creation of a new tailor-made program specifically focused on treatment optimization,” said Dr. Brian Tsuji, professor and associate dean for clinical and translational sciences.

Completion of the program, combined with a Pharm.D. or other health professions degrees, provides graduates with a “remarkable advantage when applying for residencies, fellowships or employment in clinical pharmacy or industry,” said the university. The program “offers five therapeutic areas of concentration: clinical trials, pharmacotherapy, translational pharmacology, experimental therapeutics and pharmaceutical outcomes. The tracks combine rotations with a pragmatic focus on research to create a highly individualized experience,” according to the university.

“UB has world-leading graduate training programs in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in the pharmaceutical sciences and an extremely innovative Pharm.D. curriculum,“ Tsuji said in a statement. “Our M.S. in clinical and translational therapeutics truly stands on the shoulders of giants.”

The synergy between pharmacy together with the clinical and translational sciences facilitated the creation of a new tailor-made program specifically focused on treatment optimization.

-Dr. Brian Tsuji

Developing a Pipeline of Research Leaders

Academics have stressed the importance and linkage of research to advance clinical practice, and the importance of evaluating and understanding the data to understand medications to apply to their patients. “Research is the foundation that links the basic sciences to eventual clinical practice,” said Gregory S. Gorman and Rachel R. Miller of the McWhorter School of Pharmacy at Samford University in a paper published this year.

“Interpreting data from research is an ability that many healthcare workers need to have to provide safe, effective and proficient patient care.”

Translational research is typically characterized by short-term work, resulting in a more immediate clinical impact, the authors stated. “This type of research allows the students to see their laboratory data and monitor it as it translates into a clinical setting.” When institutions incorporate research as part of the curriculum, it “not only facilitates student learning, but also helps them to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to decipher research and to define new topics of research to translate into clinical practice,” according to the study.

Tsuji’s team at the University at Buffalo is dedicated to clinical and translational approaches to combat antimicrobial resistance. He has won two NIH grants totaling more than $7 million since 2008 to research fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. His grants have been some of the largest in the history of the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Multi-drug resistant bacteria have been classified as an urgent public health threat in the U.S. and around the globe, the university stated. “These bacteria are resistant to all current antibiotics and can cause a variety of diseases, from pneumonia and other respiratory infections, to serious blood or wound infections.”

Tsuji’s superbug research investigates optimizing drug combinations to “maximize antibacterial activity and minimize resistance and toxicity.” On the university’s website, he noted, “This allows our team to push the boundaries of knowledge in antimicrobial pharmacology and it is our clinical focus which allows us to provide insights into translating these scientific findings toward the care of critically ill patients who are infected with resistant-Gram negatives.”

The degree program, which has enrolled four students in its inaugural year, offers Pharm.D. undergraduate and healthcare professional students “a unique opportunity to engage in research and training to combat disease as well as help develop a pipeline of research leaders focused on therapeutic treatment,” he said.

Joseph A. Cantlupe is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.