The global objective of the NIH-funded Molecular Therapeutics Training Program (MTTP) is to provide highly qualified predoctoral students with the knowledge base and research skills to begin independent investigative and teaching careers in the pharmacological sciences. The MTTP provides a uniform conceptual framework and research environment through which students obtain the Ph.D. degree in Pharmacology at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). Designed with a three-tiered progression, the MTTP first establishes a didac- tic foundation in cell and molecular biology coupled with research rotations to facilitate mentor selection. Secondly, a foundation in molecular and physiological pharmacology is achieved via an intensive two-part core course which emphasizes both quantitative analysis and disease-focused study of drugs. Thirdly, students specialize via advanced courses and research focus, organized according to four tracks: Molecular Pharmacology &Cell Regulation, Membrane &Structural Biology &Pharmacology, Cancer Therapeutics, and Translational Therapeutics. The interdisciplinary design fosters productive interactions among students and faculty in basic and clinical departments around the common theme of thera- peutics. Our priority outcome is to develop students with the scientific maturity to address new research questions through hypothesis-driven experimental designs. There is a need in the academic and private sectors for well-trained, highly qualified scientists with core training in the principles of pharmacology. This demand is widespread, including educators, researchers, and industry leaders. The long-term goal of this program is to increase the supply of pharmacology-based skilled scientists and educators by providing a rigorous training program that yields Ph.D. graduates who will pursue more advanced postdoctoral training on their way to independent careers in academia and research-based industry. Special features/activities of the MTTP for trainees: By establishing a common foundation in both cell and mo- lecular biology and the molecular and physiological bases of pharmacology all students share a common scientific lan- guage. As students diversify into the four Advanced Training Tracks (emphasizing cell regulation, structural biology, cancer biology, or translational studies) they remain united b many functions. The Graduate Student Organization (GSO) fosters educational as well as social interactions on a monthly basis, and the Departmental Journal Club provides oppor- tunities for the students to present current research findings to the entire department. All students fulfill th same re- quirements for advancement to candidacy, Ph.D. dissertation, and publications regardless of the area of specialization of their mentor. The GSO represents a partnership in education whereby students participate on the MTTP Steering Com- mittee, Curriculum Committee, and Prelim I Committee, providing student perspective on functions and proposed renova- tions of the Program. The Departmental Journal Club is structured for students in a progressive fashion where they attend and submit feedback on presentations by others before they make their own presentations and receive feedback from both their peers and a faculty committee. This experience has led to our students perennially winning a disproportionately greater number of presentation awards compared to other programs. In addition, the Annual Departmental Retreat show- cases the scientific accomplishments of the entire program and bring the community of faculty, students and research staff together to enjoy the science as well as recreational activities. These periodic functions are reinforced on a weekly basis by the universally attended Seminar Series in the Pharmacological Sciences which features frontier research perti- nent to novel therapeutic developments. Furthermore both faculty and students are engaged in the recruiting efforts for new students and new faculty, again in both a professional and social manner. The camaraderie and cooperation among the MTTP students is manifest in many ways, including their participation in special events such as the annual food drive, their service as mentors for high school and undergrad research interns, their invitations of special seminar speakers each year, and their organization of the annual Graduate Student Symposium at the School of Medicine. Graduates of the Program have pursued postdoctoral work at prestigious institutions, and the majority has continued in research careers. Collaborative and interdisciplinary features of the MTTP - MTTP Faculty represent six major research centers in Cleveland: CWRU, University Hospitals, the CWRU Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland VA Medical Center, and MetroHealth Medical Center. This rich diversity of research and training settings is accomplished while maintaining a united focus on pharmacology. A majority (34/42) of the training faculty hold formal appointments in the Department of Pharmacology, and all faculty share common program and research interests. Four- teen of the trainers have appointments in clinical departments, adding an important human disease-oriented dimension to the training experience. Research projects range from the molecular and cellular analysis of signal transduction and tran- scriptional regulation to the structural analysis of integral membrane receptor and transport molecules, and include com- plex, integrated transgenic models of human disease. The common thread is the focus of research on modern therapeutics. There is a continuum provided from molecular to clinical research, and the choice of focus is given to each student according to the Advanced Training Tracks and the specialty of the mentor. Collectively the MTTP trainers are a highly interactive group of experienced, well-funded investigators, and there are many examples of collaborative scientific inte- ractions among the program faculty. Junior faculty trainers have either obtained national funding already or show high promise for obtaining that funding in the near future, and most are already mentoring predoctoral students in their laboratories. There is strong tangible support provided on an annual basis directly for the MTTP by the School of Medicine.

Public Health Relevance

A common foundation in both cell and molecular biology and the physiological and molecular bases of pharmacology for all students is unique to the Molecular Therapeutics Training Pro- gram (MTTP). Also unique to this program is the rich interdisciplinary collection of trainers from multiple departments and institutions who are carefully selected and unified by their shared research interest in advancing insight for therapeutic development. As students diversify into the Advanced Training Tracks they remain united by many functions, most importantly the uniform program of study overseen by the MTTP Steering Committee, the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) that fosters educational as well as social interactions on a monthly basis, and the Annual Departmental Retreat that features the scientific accomplishments of the entire program and brings the community of faculty, students and research staff together to enjoy the science as well as recreational activities. These periodic functions are reinforced on a weekly basis by the universally attended Seminar Series in the Pharmacological Sciences and the Departmental Journal Club which features each of the MTTP Advanced Tracks on a rotating basis.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Institutional National Research Service Award (T32)
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Okita, Richard T
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Case Western Reserve University
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