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Maryland Gives UMD $62M to Expand Pharmacy Hall, Increase Focus on PGx

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Recognizing a workforce shortage and pharmacists' increasingly critical role in administering pharmacogenomic-guided drugs, the University of Maryland announced that it will enhance its pharmacy program to meet the future demands of a more personalized healthcare system.
 
Earlier this month, the university announced that it had received $62 million from the Maryland state government to expand its existing 25-year-old Pharmacy Hall. The addition will support increased enrollment in the School of Pharmacy.
 
“In response to a growing shortage of pharmacists, the School of Pharmacy has ratcheted up enrollment at the Baltimore campus to 120 students per class, [which is] more than it was designed to support,” the university said in a statement. “The addition will more comfortably allow [the university] to take on additional students, as well as 40 percent more faculty in order to help meet the workforce shortage.”
 
The 92,635-square-foot, seven-story addition to the Pharmacy Hall, which the university has been planning for the last decade, will be open in the fall semester of 2010. The School of Pharmacy's target PharmD enrollment for Fall 2010 is 660 students.
 
The new structure will be connected to the original hall by a glass pavilion. Four floors in the new portion of the hall will be “dedicated to clinical and translational research in pharmacogenetics, nanomedicine, and drug discovery.”
 
To those ends, the new building will be equipped with centrifuges and ultracentrifuges, DNA sequencing systems, real-time PCR machines, high-performance liquid chromatographers, liquid chromatographer-mass spectrometers, and -20C and -80C freezers, all of which will allow researchers and students to analyze genes, proteins, and SNPs, and store clinical samples.
 
A spokesperson for the university told Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week that the main aim of the expansion is to “attract additional faculty members and build a center of excellence in pharmacogenomics.” Along with Hongbing Wang, an assistant professor in the department of pharmaceutical sciences, the university recently recruited Yan Shu as part of its pharmacogenomics faculty. 
 
“The faculty members are well equipped to teach the area, and a new course in pharmacogenomics has recently been initiated,” the spokesperson said. “Lecturers in this course include researchers from ... [the university and the] FDA.”
 

"The additional space, technology, and resources will ultimately help the next generation of students enter the professional world with all the interpersonal and scientific tools they will need."

Pharmacogenomics courses at the university will overview concepts and discuss the potential impact of the discipline in the healthcare system, as well as offer classes focusing on pharmacogenomics in drug metabolism, drug transporters, diabetes, cancer chemotherapeutics, kidney disease, heart failure, and how the science fits in with FDA regulations.
“The addition will do more than house education and research facilities,” Natalie Eddington, dean of the School of Pharmacy, said in a statement. "The Pharmacy Hall addition heralds a new era for the School of Pharmacy. The additional space, technology, and resources will ultimately help the next generation of students enter the professional world with all the interpersonal and scientific tools they will need."
 
According to Wang, who will teach an overview course on pharmacogenomics concepts, greater emphasis on PGx “will enable our students to understand basic pharmacogenomic principles, and their potential use for developing better and safer drugs.”
 
Wang noted that although a number of pharmacy programs at US universities are ramping up their focus on pharmacogenomics, traditionally, pharmacy schools provided limited lectures in pharmacogenomics. “Therefore, it is hard to expect that current pharmacists hold an extensive level of current knowledge in pharmacogenomics,” Wang said. “Given the rapid advancements in pharmacogenomics, it’s probably more of a challenge for future pharmacists in practical use.”
 
In a survey of 85 US pharmacy schools conducted in 2004 by American Association of the Colleges of Pharmacy, 78 percent offered some instruction in pharmacogenetics or pharmacogenomics. According to Wang, currently only about 10 percent of US colleges and universities offer a standalone course in pharmacogenomics.
 
Among them is George Washington University, which in conjunction with Shenandoah University, offers a two-year PGx program for pharmacists. As part of the program, students can collect and genotype human samples [see PGx Reporter 03-07-2007]. 
 
“Pharmacogenomic-guided personalized medicine provides tremendous opportunities and challenges for pharmacists, and it holds great potential for a true patient-specific customization for drug therapy,” Wang said. “In the future, some of the drugs may be developed that require dose adjustment according to the patients’ genetic profile.
 
“Pharmacists need have this kind of knowledge in order to provide patients with proper dosage at clinical settings,” he added.
 
According to University of Maryland President David Ramsay, the fact that the state granted the university funds to improve its facility for future pharmacists, signals that the Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Maryland General Assembly “recognized the need to educate more pharmacists [and] carry out more cutting-edge research.”

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