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College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences gains new research lab

Drake University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences will remain at the forefront of pharmacological sciences through the construction of a state-of-the-art Pharmacogenomics and Disease Prevention Laboratory.

The lab, which is funded by a federal appropriation of $396,000 and an Iowa Board of Regents Grow Iowa Values Fund grant of $60,000, will allow students and area professionals to use the DNA of individual patients to choose the right medications for treating conditions such as cancer, leukemia and hypertension.

“Drake’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences will be one of the few privately run pharmacy colleges, which are not associated with a medical school, to have these facilities,” said Pramod Mahajan, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences.

The function of the lab is to bring together the genetic information of patients and the genetic components of more than 500 FDA-approved medications to more adequately treat diseases, giving students the skills to harness the maximum benefits of the medication and understand the science behind them.

Madeleine Hornick, a senior health sciences clinical and applied major, has conducted research with Dr. Mahajan since May. Though she will not be on campus to experience the lab, she reacted to the news with excitement for future Drake students.

“The idea of being able to work hands-on with the technology that will be in these labs is something that I would have loved to do while at Drake,” Hornick said. “I’ve gained a lot of great experience through the research I’m conducting now, and this lab will take the work of Drake’s research professors to the next level.”

“This is the future of medicine,” Mahajan said. “The expectation is that every health care worker in the future will knowabout this, and every researcher working in the pharmaceutical industry working with drug development will know about this.”

In addition to the personalized medicine component of the new lab, it will feature equipment that promotes disease prevention, including equipment that can be used to measure physiological data such as blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, bone density and range of motion.

The disease prevention component of the lab will allow students to reach out to the community, ideally serving real patients from Des Moines area hospitals after familiarizing themselves with the equipment.

“We’ll be able to bring in people from the community, counsel them and give them ideas on how to improve their health,” said Bob Soltis, professor of pharmacology and chair of the department of pharmaceutical, biomedical and administrative sciences,

Pharmacy and health sciences students will benefit from the cutting-edge technology as well as access to hands-on equipment that they’ll later use in their medical careers.

“I’m thinking about going into clinical pharmacy, so a lot of what I’m going to be doing involves the genetics of the person and how a drug interacts with them personally,” said sophomore pre-pharmacy major Nicole McSweeney. “I think it’s great to have hands-on experience before going into the field, and I think the experience will help Drake students stand out when looking for jobs after college.”

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