Message from the Chair

The human genome sequence is readily accessible, but our knowledge of the principles that govern the regulation and function of genes and gene products (proteins) is still limited. Innovative experimental and computational approaches are urgently needed in order to gain molecular understanding of fundamental biological mechanisms and design small molecules that perturb biological pathways in informative and potentially therapeutic ways.

To address the grand challenge of translating our knowledge about human biology and pathology into new medicines for disease prevention and treatment, the Department of Pharmacological Sciences focuses its core research at the interface between Structural Biology and Biophysics, and Molecular and Systems Pharmacology. The former is a fast-growing field centered on elucidation of macromolecular structure-function using X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, cryo-electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, and single-molecule biophysics techniques. The latter encompasses biochemistry and drug metabolism and action, as well as chemical biology, medicinal chemistry and systems pharmacology. Advances in genetics, genomics and proteomics, computational biology and bioinformatics enhance both fields. Studying the interactions of small molecules with the whole genome and proteome defines molecular and systems pharmacology. This is well represented in the Department by research opportunities in the areas of signal transduction, protein expression and regulation, cell proliferation and differentiation, epigenetic control of chromatin structure and gene expression, mouse models of human diseases, and genomic analysis of drug action. Both structural biology and molecular and systems pharmacology integrate experimental and computational methods in that experimentation is guided by theory and vice versa; computational biology and bioinformatics spanning a range of disciplines from molecules to systems are therefore strongly represented in this Department.

Our faculty research receives more than $19 million annually in grant awards from the National Institutes of Health, placing us third in NIH award rankings among pharmacology basic science departments in the United States for the past three years.

The Department provides a rich educational environment for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to pursue training in pharmacological sciences with an eye towards novel scientific discovery and therapeutic intervention. The scale and complexity of today’s biomedical research increasingly demands that scientists go beyond the confines of their own disciplines and explore new interdisciplinary, collaborative, and team-based science. Such team-based science enables us to tackle some of the most challenging problems in biomedical sciences that no single research laboratory could do alone, making the translation of innovative scientific discovery into new medicines a reality.

The Department is fully committed to providing a nurturing environment for discovery and innovation in basic and translational biomedical research of human health and disease, and for advanced academic training for the next generation of physicians and scientists.

Ming-Ming Zhou, PhD
Dr. Harold and Golden Lamport Professor and Chairman, Pharmacological Sciences
Co-Director, Experimental Therapeutics Institute