Pharmacological Sciences (PS) Predoctoral Training Program

Contact: Dr. Sailaja Koduri

The NIGMS pharmacological sciences training grant program supports research training in quantitative and systems pharmacology which is defined as an approach to translational medicine that combines computational and experimental methods to elucidate, validate and apply pharmacological concepts to the development and use of small molecule and biologic drugs to understand their mechanisms of action. Quantitative and systems pharmacology supports the development of the knowledge needed to understand complex cellular networks and investigate the pathophysiology of disease so as to maximize therapeutic benefit and minimize toxicity and implement a “precision medicine” approach to improving the health of individual patients. It collectively includes the areas of drug receptors, cell signaling pathways, pharmacometrics, toxicology, medicinal chemistry, drug disposition, drug delivery and regulatory sciences. NIGMS encourages PIs who wish to have a training program in the pharmacological sciences to emphasize training in quantitative approaches to drug discovery and development. Programs must emphasize training in various -omic technologies, quantitative molecular models and the connections of these -omic technologies and models to animal and human physiology and pathophysiology. Furthermore, trainees should receive fundamental training in the principles of pharmacokinetics as well as the basics of chemistry to understand structure-activity relationships. Training in additional areas of pharmacology that may contribute to the greater understanding or improvements in therapeutic efficacy or reduction in adverse effects, such as pharmacogenomics, are encouraged. Involvement of students in human clinical pharmacology and translational research is also highly encouraged. Because of the reliance of pharmacology on physiological principles, formal instruction or a background in organ physiology is required. Since pharmacology is an interdisciplinary science, areas in which students may conduct research include, but are not limited to: biochemistry, chemistry, structural biology, neurobiology, immunology, microbiology, cancer biology, developmental sciences, experimental therapeutics and various medical specialties (e.g., anesthesiology, psychiatry, cardiovascular research, gastroenterology, etc.).

The program should provide students with broad exposure to cutting-edge research relevant to the discovery and development of therapeutic agents and to the basic understanding of drug receptors and mechanisms of drug action at and beyond the ligand receptor interaction. As part of this training program, students who are or were supported by the training grant award are expected to participate in activities such as seminar series, journal clubs and/or annual research retreats, which augment their Ph.D. program and provide valuable opportunities for interactions among participating students who typically come from a various departments or programs. During their training period, students may perform short-term training experiences in pre-arranged internships with biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies or with government regulatory agencies. It is expected that students who receive support from the training award will continue to interact with the program after they leave the program by attending training grant supported seminars, annual meetings and other activities. It is important that training programs have clear expectations and measurables for students and faculty to have a successful training grant program. It is expected that graduates of these training programs should find positions in academic and government research labs, the pharmaceutical or biotech industry, and in government regulatory agencies.

The administrative center of a PS program may be in a school of medicine, a school of pharmacy, a school of veterinary medicine or any other appropriate academic unit. However, the program should be interdisciplinary and interdepartmental in its recruitment of potential students and faculty mentors. It may be appropriate for training grant programs to define multiple tracks that meet the different needs of students with varied backgrounds and objectives. The focus of any particular PS training program will depend on faculty research strengths and the existence of other training programs at the institution. If an institution has other training grants (e.g., chemistry-biology interface, molecular medicine, and cellular and molecular biology), it is important to explain how the pharmacology training program is unique and clearly meets a training need for faculty and students. The presence of other training grant awards should not automatically exclude any faculty on these awards from participating in the PS training program but it is important that their inclusion as mentors or participating faculty meet the mission and objectives of the PS training program. NIGMS will seek to maintain diversity and balance among the areas of research training supported by its portfolio of training grants.