More than $20 million in grants and contracts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in fiscal year 2021 propelled the University of Arizona’s R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy to No. 5 in the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s rankings ( AACP).
The ranking is based on information compiled from the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool. It includes all funded research grants awarded to principal investigators in U.S. colleges and pharmacy schools.
“Our attendance is a testament to our commitment to advancing the pharmaceutical sciences and ensuring that current and prospective students gain hands-on experience with the best in our field,” said Dean Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD.
“It shows an energetic, collaborative and growing research venture,” said Nathan Cherrington, PhD, ATS, associate dean for research in the College of Pharmacy. “The hard work of our faculty is uncovering groundbreaking approaches to healthcare challenges and positioning us as a leader among our peers.”
A $50 million transformational gift from alumnus R. Ken Coit in November 2021 bolstered the college’s recent rise through the creation of six endowed chairs and four chairs. The infusion of funding has helped to boost faculty research across the college.
A recent example of this success is: Haining Zhu, PhD, professor of pharmacology and toxicology and holder of the R. Ken and Donna Coit Endowed Chair in Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases. His NIH-funded work focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms for neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia, and other diseases such as cancer.
His goal is to understand how stress response pathways contribute to disease at the molecular level. For example, nerve cells are under stress during aging and failure to respond properly can lead to dysfunction and death, ultimately resulting in neurodegenerative diseases. His research is to learn how to tune the stress response pathways in nerve cells to maintain their healthy status.
dr. Zhu said the NIH funds serve as a critical source of financial support and a means of recruiting and retaining top talent for his lab.
The impact of NIH funding is far-reaching as students have the unique opportunity to interact with Dr. Zhu and other world-renowned researchers.
It is the case with Rukayat Aromokeye, a sophomore graduate student in the department of pharmacology and toxicology and a researcher in Dr. zhu. She received a Young Investigator Award at the 2022 International Research Conference on Neurodegenerative Diseases in Omaha, Nebraska.
“It is a privilege to be part of a wonderful institution with the best mentors I could ever wish for, such as Dr. zhu, Gregory Thatcher, PhD, Hongmin Li, PhDand Martha Ackerman-Berrier‘ said Aromakeye.
After graduation, Aromokeye said she hopes to contribute to more research in drug discovery and pharmacology.
The AACP represents pharmacy education in the United States and works with 142 pharmacy schools across the country to ensure quality education and training.
A version of this story was originally published by the College of Pharmacy.