By Rene Scheys
Marshall B. Ketchum University is proud to celebrate the recently approved construction on the College of Pharmacy’s new Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Laboratory, which will open later this year at the Ketchum Health facility in Anaheim Hills, Calif.
The plan is to update an existing space at MBKU Health with state-of-the-art research equipment specifically chosen to meet the needs of the ongoing research projects currently being conducted by faculty members in the College of Pharmacy. This equipment includes 12 workstations, a cutting-edge tissue/cell culture laboratory, and other essential support equipment such as vent hoods and formulation instruments. The lab will provide facilities for College of Pharmacy faculty to add to the body of knowledge in pharmaceutical science while maintaining the expertise that is essential to their professional development. The lab will also ensure that the research done by faculty enhances the reputation of MBKU’s College of Pharmacy.
Leading the effort is Rajesh Vadlapatla, PhD, Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Dr. Vadlapatla is thrilled about the opportunities that having a fully equipped research lab will provide for him and his colleagues. “All the faculty we have here at Ketchum have expertise in their different areas,” he explains. “The University is providing the resources that we require by funding the equipment and the facility. Having the expertise, the resources provided by the University will very much help us in doing meaningful research.”
The lab gives College of Pharmacy faculty a place to continue the experimentation that they are already conducting elsewhere. Because MBKU faculty need to be involved with research to stay current in their field and advance in their professional careers, they form partnerships with labs at larger institutions of higher education and collaborate on the work there. The new Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Lab will provide an avenue for them to bring this work home to Marshall B. Ketchum University.
The lab will accommodate the research of a number of faculty who already have ongoing research projects, among them Charitha Madiraju, PhD, whose work aims to find novel pharmacologically active therapeutics for treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases, and who will also use the lab to continue mentoring post-doctorates and associate scientists on research projects centered on anti-cancer agents. Jozef Stec, PhD, who has been performing projects in synthetic organic, medicinal, and analytical chemistry for over a decade, is currently researching discovery and development of new and effective medicines to combat tuberculosis.
The current research of Young Cho, PhD, is focused on two main areas. The first is the testing of anti-neoplastic cytostatic actions of various natural plant extracts in mammary carcinoma model system in vitro, and the second is the examination of insulin-mimetic effects of the orphan nuclear receptors.
Andy Nauli, PhD, has two major research projects in the area of dietary fat absorption, examining both how red meat allergen is transported by the gut and also working to determine the physiochemical properties of lipophilic drugs. And Dr. Vadlapatla’s own research explores the areas of extended-release drug delivery systems, preformulation, dosage form formulation, and analytical method development.
The other means by which the Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Laboratory will allow MBKU to extend its mission is by enhancing the opportunities College of Pharmacy students have to apply the knowledge they learn in their classrooms to a laboratory setting. This aspect of the lab’s potential is of particular interest to Dr. Vadlapatla, who initially planned for a long career in the pharmaceutical sciences industry before discovering a love for teaching shortly after completing his PhD. The lab gives him and other College of Pharmacy faculty a priceless teaching tool. Zhijun Wang, PhD, is currently working on three areas: (1) Utilization of herbal medicine to improve chemotherapy in cancer research. The herb-drug combination will be used to overcome chemo resistance and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy; (2) Sublingual formulation development; and (3) Pre-clinical and clinical pharmacokinetic studies.
“Each student is required to complete a capstone project in which they combine clinical research with other scholarly activity,” he says. “For example, I have three students right now who are working on doing literature research and writing review articles. But when we have our lab, we can do more hands-on experiments and they will be engaged in a different, more valuable way.”
Projects like these are the sure signs that Marshall B. Ketchum University continues to grow in resources and reputation. The Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Lab in the College of Pharmacy is the first step in a process that will help MBKU’s College of Pharmacy faculty initiate research projects, begin to attract grants, and further establish the credentials by which the University is accredited—all while maintaining the advantages with respect to its smaller size and higher student engagement that MBKU already enjoys.
“Having the lab will help us connect with the students even better,” says Dr. Vadlapatla. “This helps them day to day in class, of course, but it also distinguishes them as they pursue residency and fellowship programs. This offers them an advantage, and is one way we are able to keep our students involved in our research.”
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