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

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

 

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 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

 

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

 

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

 

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?

 

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

 

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?

 

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?

 

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

 

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.

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

Sarah F. Hamm-Alvarez, PhD

 

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

 

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

 

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?

 

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

 

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?

 

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

 

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

 

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 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

 

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?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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 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?