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Department of Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Chemistry
College of Pharmacy
301 Skaggs Hall
30 South 2000 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
phone: (801) 581-7831
fax: (801) 581-3674

About Us

Pharmaceutics at the University of Utah

Pharmaceutics education and research was initiated at the University of Utah in 1968, with the establishment of the Department of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences, chaired by Professor Emeritus, Dr. Robert Petersen. Dr. Petersen's interests and activities included drug-container interactions and the development of tests for measuring the toxicity of plastics used as packaging materials. These interests lead to a natural collaboration with a new Materials Science and Engineering Program, and to the recruitment of Professors Kim, Andrade, and Knutson. The Department's activities in polymers and drug delivery were thus initiated in the early 1970's.

The College of Pharmacy was reorganized in 1978, thus establishing the present Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Dr. William Higuchi was recruited as Chairman in 1982. The interests and activities of he and his coworkers provided significantly expanded research activation. Dr. Brad Anderson was recruited in 1983 and rapidly developed a large internationally recognized research program.

The Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery (CCCD) was founded by Dr. S.W. Kim in 1986, one of the first State of Utah Centers of Excellence. The recruitment of Dr. J. Kopecek (half-time with the Department of Bioengineering) provided focus on water soluble polymers for drug delivery applications. Dr. J. Herron's recruitment provided expertise in antibody chemistry, with application to drug targeting. CCCD has organized and conducted an international drug delivery conference in Salt Lake City in odd-numbered years. The Utah conference now draws approximately 500 participants, making it one of the most significant drug delivery conferences in the field.

Dr. Dinesh Patel, Research Associate Professor from 1984-1986, S.W. Kim, and W. Higuchi founded the Department's first major spin-off company, Therapeutic Technologies, Inc. (TTI). TTI is now a mid-size pharmaceutical firm specializing in transdermal devices. Other faculty corporate involvements include:

MacroMed, Inc. (S.W. Kim)
Protein Solutions, Inc. (J.D. Andrade)
Lipocine, Inc. (W. Higuchi)

The faculty also consult for a variety of pharmaceutical and health care companies.

On December 30, 1997, Dr. William Higuchi stepped down as Chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics. During the following year, Dr. Joseph Andrade served as Interim Chair. Beginning February 1, 1999, Dr. Jindrich Kopecek began his term as Chair, serving until June 30, 2004. Following which, Dr. Steven Kern began his term as Interim Chair on July 1, 2004.

The Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Chemistry graduate program at the University of Utah emphasizes education at the interface of physical/physical organic chemistry, mathematics, and modern biology. Graduate students learn to apply fundamental concepts in these areas to many specialized areas of research, including:

  • Mechanisms of drug transport in biological membranes, drug release from dosage forms/delivery systems, and drug targeting to specific organs, cells, or sub-cellular organelles;
  • Design of novel drug delivery systems using physical, chemical, and biological approaches;
  • Fundamental studies of the biophysical chemistry underlying various physiological or disease processes;
  • Basic research in the kinetics and mechanisms of reactions involving drugs both in vitro and in vivo;
  • Basic studies of the physical and chemical properties of drugs and biomaterials, including bioactive macromolecules and the influence of chemical structure on those properties.

Numerous opportunities exist at the University of Utah for collaboration with scientists, engineers, and clinicians in other departments (e.g., chemistry, bioengineering, materials science, and various departments within the School of Medicine) as well as opportunities for collaboration with scientists at other universities and in industry, both in the United States and abroad. Moreover, several members of the faculty participate in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Biological Chemistry, a combined program offering education areas that cross traditional boundaries in the biological and chemical sciences.

Research Facilities

The Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry  occupies approximately 24,000 square feet of space in the College of Pharmacy and two nearby locations, all in proximity to the Medical Center and Health Sciences Library. One of these locations is the newly constructed Biomedical Polymers Research Building, which also houses the Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery. All department space is well equipped for graduate research, containing facilities for cell culture, and small-animal surgery, as well as cold rooms, darkrooms, modern computer facilities, including Silicon Graphics workstations, and several instrument rooms, offices, and conference rooms. Instrumentation available within the department includes numerous chromatographic instruments (HPLC, CE, FPLC, GLC), various scintillation counters, spectrometers (UV/VIS, UV/VIS/NIR, fluorescence, FTIR), calorimetry instrumentation, a quasielastic light scattering instrument, lyophilization equipment, and various microscopes for confocal microscopy and other applications. Researchers have ready access to NMR and mass spectrometry services including GC/MS and LC/MS in the College of Pharmacy and to SEM, EM, and scanning force microscopy services in the Biomedical Polymers Building.

Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery (CCCD)

The Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery (CCCD) was established at the University of Utah in 1986 under the auspices of the State of Utah Centers of Excellence Program. CCCD is currently located in a 9,000 sq. ft. laboratory, located within the new Biomedical Polymers Research Facility.

CCCD consists of faculty from the Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry as core members and selected outside researchers. As an extension of the Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, CCCD maintains a strong graduate training program and has attained a leading position in worldwide pharmaceutical, polymer and biomedical research. CCCD receives funding from the State of Utah, industry sponsored contracts, and grants from the National Institutes of Health. Through success in research, CCCD has gained a leading position in the role of academic and industrial relations in the field of biomedical polymer controlled drug delivery and blood contacting devices.

CCCD is well equipped with modern scientific instruments and facilities. A central research theme pursued within CCCD is the development and application of new and useful polymeric materials.

  • New biodegradable polymers, bioadhesive polymers, novel hydrogels, such as interpenetrating polymer networks, are currently being evaluated for oral drug delivery and as implantable, long term drug release systems.
  • Stimuli sensitive polymers are designed to respond to external conditions, such as temperature, pH, electric fields, and ultraviolet radiation. These polymers will present a new dimension to drug delivery systems as they can react to external or physiologically imposed signals to provide controlled and on-demand drug release.
  • Polymeric prodrugs and chemically modified of drugs are being developed for specific organ targeting and/or long term delivery of therapeutic agents. Targetable drug delivery utilizes a specific targetable moiety (antibody) and drug molecule, chemically coupled to a polymer backbone. The targeting moiety allows for the system to be aimed directly at a specific cell, tissue or organ. The advantage of such systems is delivery of drug directly to site of action, thereby decreasing side-effects.
  • The oral delivery of peptide drugs is an active research program at CCCD. By incorporating stabilizing compounds and carrier polymers, peptide drugs, especially insulin, can be orally administered, much to the benefit of the patient. In addition, investigations are underway on the colonic delivery of peptides, based on the degradation of polymers by specific microbial enzymes, releasing proteins and macromolecules into the colon.
  • Design of polymeric gene carriers and delivery systems for cellular targeting of therapeutic genes.

Other research activities have been established and are maintained by long term NIH support. These programs include insulin modification, islet encapsulation and Anti GAD b-cell targeting.

Undergraduate Research Application

Summer Research Fellowship Program at the University of Utah at the department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry provides undergraduate students majoring in the basic sciences with the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in scientific research at a major academic institution.

Summer Research Fellowship Program Information 

Graduate School Application

Application/ to the graduate program requires completion of the University of Utah Graduate School Application Form, official grade transcripts of all university courses, three letters of recommendation, a detailed personal statement of career interests, and a curriculum vitae. The General Aptitude portion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for all applicants, domestic and foreign. The TOEFL test, with a score of at least 550, is a requirement for foreign students only. The Admissions Committee invites selected highly qualified applicants for personal interviews; travel expenses for invited applicants are paid for by the department.

Requirements include a B.S. degree in pharmacy, chemistry, biology, chemical engineering, or related areas, high recommendations by professors of undergraduate courses, at least a B average (3.0) in undergraduate course work and GRE scores.

Graduate School Admission Information

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