Research

The USC School of Pharmacy ranks first in the nation in total research funding among private pharmacy schools. USC Pharmacy faculty are internationally renowned for innovation in the design, discovery, targeting and delivery of novel therapies that improve human health—particularly in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, cardiovascular ailments, diabetes and immune system disorders.

The School maintains a long tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration across academic departments, industry and government—conducting cutting-edge translational research that encompasses the full spectrum from basic laboratory discoveries to clinical care advances, and sparking real breakthroughs on complex and pervasive health challenges.

Research highlights

A continuous recipient of NIH funding since 1994, Dr. Hamm-Alvarez is developing an inexpensive and easy-to-use new diagnostic tool that could dramatically reduce the current average of seven years to diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome.

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    Sarah F. Hamm-Alvarez, PhD
    Portrait of Dr. Alvarez

    Sarah F. Hamm-Alvarez, PhD

     

    USC has the 5th fastest super computer cluster in the US, and Associate Professor Ian Haworth is using it to advance his research in finding new therapies to treat diabetes and neurodegenerative disease.

    Searching for Novel Therapies
    Supercomputer

    Searching for Novel Therapies

     

    The School unites an interdisciplinary team of pharmacologists, toxicologists and pharmaceutical and regulatory scientists to explore new directions in identifying, designing and targeting new therapeutic advances. Complementing this are researchers working in the clinical arena and in health economics and policy. Centers and institutes, based at the School and throughout the University, offer a structure for collaborative pursuits.

    Formulating the Future
    USC pharmacisits at work testing formulas in lab

    Formulating the Future

     

    Increasingly faced with antimicrobial resistance, coupled with the dwindling development of novel agents to treat these infections, faculty combine molecular and pharmacological approaches to address this challenge, while others study defensins, and the mechanisms of infection associated with cystic fibrosis.

    Infectious Diseases
    Infectious Disease

    Infectious Diseases

     

    Sjögren’s syndrome is often misdiagnosed, opening the door for serious complications. Studying the basic cellular biology of tear proteins and the changes in these processes that contribute to defective tear protein secretion, School of Pharmacy faculty are developing diagnostic tear biomarkers for early detection of ocular disorders.

    Sjögren's Syndrome/Dry Eye
    dry-eye

    Sjögren's Syndrome/Dry Eye

     

    Patients who need prescriptions, such as statins for moderate risk of coronary heart disease, have improved access and increased utilization rates when those drugs are moved to behind-the-counter status with a pharmacist to provide counseling and medication management.

    How do you increase patient access to medication while reducing costs?

     

    Several School of Pharmacy faculty are studying signaling pathways in diabetes and liver disease. An exciting new study in collaboration with the City of Hope is examining the potential for islet beta cell – regeneration therapy by inhibiting a key enzyme that plays a role in tumor development and tissue regeneration.

    Diabetes/Liver Diseases
    Self-administering an insulin shot

    Diabetes/Liver Diseases

     

    An expert in chemical genetics – the science of altering gene function using (transient) small molecules instead of (permanent) genetic engineering – Dr. Olenyuk is seeking new therapeutic treatments for cancer, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and more.

    Bogdan Z. Olenyuk, PhD
    Portrait of Dr. Olenyuk

    Bogdan Z. Olenyuk, PhD

     

    Dr. MacKay’s laboratory is engineering a new generation of bioresponsive nanocarriers designed to more effectively target and destroy cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue and reducing side effects of chemotherapy.

    J. Andrew MacKay, PhD
    Portrait of Dr. Mackay

    J. Andrew MacKay, PhD

     

    With well over 50,000 people living on the streets in Los Angeles County, a collaboration between psychiatric pharmacists and primary care physicians at a skid-row, safety-net clinic provides a model of care that helps bridge the gap in providing comprehensive heath care that includes quality psychiatric services.

    How do we meet the rising demand for psychiatric services among the homeless population?

     

    The School of Pharmacy houses research faculty whose work centers on different aspects of cancer – including prostate and brain cancer metastasis, using platform technologies to develop better delivery systems, and identifying small molecule drugs that can interact with key metabolic and signaling pathways.

    Cancer
    breastcancer

    Cancer

     

    Alcohol abuse affects more than 17 million Americans annually. The USC School of Pharmacy is at the forefront of efforts to understand the neurochemical basis of brain function and behavior that is crucial to the development of new approaches to prevent and treat alcoholism, drug abuse and psychological disorders.

    Alcoholism/Addiction
    Addiction

    Alcoholism/Addiction

     

    A grant from Quintiles is helping the School build upon its leadership role in both health economic policy and regulatory science to promote more effective and efficient health care delivery and to make medical products faster, safer and better.

    Shaping Tomorrow's Health Care
    Illustration of a DNA strand

    Shaping Tomorrow's Health Care

     

    Two-thirds of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s are women, and Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD, has found a key link between brain health at menopause and the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease onset 20 years later.

    Is there a connection between menopause and the development of Alzheimer's disease?

     

    Some very healthy people, who also happen to be thin, believe that eating fewer calories may be a kind of fountain of youth – an anti-aging strategy. Professor Raj Sohal takes a look at this phenomenon.

    Does caloric restriction extend life span?

     

    Recipient of one of the first NIH “big idea” awards designed to “encourage projects so original that they have the potential to challenge fundamental beliefs,” Dr. Camarero was recognized for his research to develop a new generation of antibody substitutes.

    Julio A. Camarero, PhD
    Portrait of Dr. Camarero

    Julio A. Camarero, PhD

     

    A new study from a team at the USC School of Pharmacy details potential sources of bias that clinicians, pharmacy and therapeutic committees, health insurance companies, HMOs and government programs must be aware before using comparative effectiveness research based on retrospective data.

    Is comparative effectiveness research the best way to choose your next treatment?

     

    Improving American health during middle age, while initially increasing expenditures, could lead to health care savings of more than $1.1 trillion by 2050, of which $632 billion would accrue to Medicaid and Medicare.

    How can the U.S. raise life expectancy and save $632 billion in Medicaid and Medicare savings at the same time?

     

    Inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions waste millions of healthcare dollars annually and contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine outlines an inexpensive yet effective approach to reducing this inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics for respiratory infections. USC School of Pharmacy Professor Jason Doctor is senior author on the study.

    How can we save $70 million in health costs while improving care?

     

    A national expert in improving health outcomes while reducing cost, Dr. Chen is one of the School’s leading faculty serving patients in safety-net clinics, providing medication therapy management for low-income patients with chronic conditions.

    Steven W. Chen, PharmD
    Portrait of Dr. Chen

    Steven W. Chen, PharmD

     

    A lifetime appointee to the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Goldman leads one of the nation’s premier centers for innovative, independent health policy research. Recent work looks at raising U.S. life expectancy while saving the government $632 billion by 2050.

    Dana Goldman, PhD
    Image of Dr. Goldman

    Dana Goldman, PhD

     

    The outcomes research team—including the health economics and policy group, the clinical pharmacy group and the regulatory science group—emphasizes innovations in treatment models and the development of better policies to make sure that care is more accessible and affordable.

    Outcomes Research Team
    Thanks to research, doctors are able to provide better patient care

    Outcomes Research Team

     

    The molecular targets team focuses on the underlying biological mechanisms essential to the development of increasingly targeted and effective treatments for some of the most pervasive and challenging diseases and disorders.

    Molecular Targets Research Team
    Molecular Structure

    Molecular Targets Research Team

     

    The biotechnology team focuses on drug design, development and delivery, working toward breakthroughs that will transform tomorrow’s medicine by generating new drug compounds for diagnostic and therapeutic use.

    Biotechnology Research Team
    Biotechnology

    Biotechnology Research Team

     

    A two-time NIH Merit Award winner, Dr. Shih won international acclaim for discovering how the brain enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO) affects behavior. Her research holds promise for treating aggression, depression, alcohol abuse, obesity, autism schizophrenia and cancer.

    Jean Shih, PhD
    Portrait of Dr. Shih

    Jean Shih, PhD

     

    Professor Dana Goldman, director of the USC Schaeffer Center, and colleagues have shown the importance of timing when it comes to HIV treatment. Published in Health Affairs, the study finds that early treatment “reduces morbidity and mortality in people living with HIV/AIDS, and decreases the transmission of the disease to the uninfected.”

    HIV/AIDS
    clock

    HIV/AIDS

     

    Professor Roberta Diaz Brinton has received NIH funding for a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of Allopregnanolone in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

    Preventing Alzheimer's Disease
    Illustration of a human brain

    Preventing Alzheimer's Disease

     

    The USC School of Pharmacy is a key partner in the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), funded with a $56.8 million NIH award and aimed at speeding research from the laboratory into sustainable public health solutions.

    Solving Public Health Problems
    Doctor conducts exam on child in developing nation

    Solving Public Health Problems

     

    School of Pharmacy faculty are deeply involved in finding new ways to optimize health outcomes while saving healthcare dollars through projects supported by federal grants.

    Prescribing a New Approach
    Pharmacists reviewing prescriptions

    Prescribing a New Approach