The predoctoral Training Program in Biomolecular Pharmacology at Boston University was launched in 1991 as a training center that would meld quantitative principles of biomedical engineering (BME) with pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, and was honored in July 1997 with the award of an NIGMS T32. In the succeeding 14 years, this university-wide program has continued to provide a supportive learning environment for predoctoral students. Program characteristics include an innovative curriculum, interdisciplinary laboratory rotations, an industrial summer internship, and diverse research training opportunities that span the Medical and Charles-River campuses. Students enter the Program via the Departments of Pharmacology or BME. Program trainees in BME and other departments experience an integrated curriculum designed to provide enriched training in the principles and practice of pharmacology that is coordinated with specialized training in their primary discipline. Trainees in Pharmacology gain access to diverse research and educational experiences that build upon those provided by core pharmacology faculty. The core curriculum stresses fundamental pharmacological principles as well as key issues governing interactions of bioactive molecules, challenges of drug delivery for novel therapeutics, animal models for drug action, their relevance to the clinic, and the challenges for modern drug discovery. Participating faculty, originally 21 and now 52, contribute expertise in focus areas including neuropharmacology, vascular and cancer pharmacology, genomics, gene therapy, proteomics, animal models (transgenic and behavioral), structural biology, nanotechnology, systems biology and medicinal chemistry. Sites for thesis research are also located in departments of Anatomy &Neurobiology, Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, Neurology, Pathology, Physiology and Biophysics, Psychiatry, and Psychology. A major innovation implemented in 2010 is the university-wide Graduate Program for Neuroscience (GPN), which is attracting a large additional pool of high quality students with interests in pharmacological neuroscience. The Program has continued offering summer internships with collaborating scientists at local pharmaceutical companies. Career guidance with active oversight by faculty and senior student mentors engages trainees and provides leadership opportunities that are relevant to their career paths whether in academia, government or the private sector. Training duration is about 5.7 years and graduating students perform exceptionally well at competing for high level positions in various sectors. There are currently 46 students (41 TGE) in the program including 4 TGE from underrepresented minorities. This renewal application seeks funding for 8 trainees each year. The requested increase in the number of slots is to leverage the increased interest of highly qualified BME and GPN candidates in pharmacology training.

Public Health Relevance

The interdisciplinary Program in Biomolecular Pharmacology at Boston University (BU) is designed to prepare predoctoral students for this new era of pharmacological research and discovery, combining the fundamental principles of pharmacology with novel approaches drawn from bioinformatics, biophysics, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, chemistry, genetics and molecular medicine. Trainees undertake an integrated program of course work that emphasizes translation of basic science into clinical medicine. Prior to selecting a project for their thesis research, rotating students become familiar with the breadth of pharmacological approaches, by experiencing the different styles of innovative research in multiple laboratories across BU, as well as the opportunity to participate in research projects in industrial laboratories.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Institutional National Research Service Award (T32)
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National Institute of General Medical Sciences Initial Review Group (BRT)
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Okita, Richard T
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Boston University
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