Molecular Pharmacology

Faculty Contact:

Alexandra Newton (

The Molecular Pharmacology Track is organized through the Department of Pharmacology, a basic science department serving the School of Medicine and SSPPS. The more than forty BMS faculty with primary affiliations in this track are largely those in Pharmacology and SSPPS but faculty from Medicine, Anesthesiology, Neuroscience and Psychiatry also choose Molecular Pharmacology as their primary track. Pharmacological science, as broadly defined, is a discipline that investigates the effects of chemical interventions on biological systems.

The Molecular Pharmacology program at UCSD is renowned for its strength in elucidating basic cellular and molecular mechanisms of Signal Transduction.  A common interest is in identifying nodal points in signaling pathways that lend themselves to drug target identification and ultimately to therapeutic advances.  Most of the faculty members affiliated with this track have research efforts that impact directly on human health, supported by NIH grants on inflammatory, cardiovascular and neurological diseases, pain regulation, and cancer.  An additional research strength is in the computational area with a focus on Structure-guided Drug Design and Bioinformatics. A cross campus effort in Environmental Health Sciences, which includes many Pharmacology Track faculty, is supported by a major NIH grant and has a strong educational training component.  Adjunct faculty at the Scripps Research Institute, as well as faculty associated with the local biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, work together with faculty in the Pharmacology track to create a natural bond for cross fertilization and communication that bridges basic science efforts with endeavors in drug discovery.

The Molecular Pharmacology Track is supported by an NIH funded Predoctoral Training Grant in Pharmacological Science.  Due to recognized strength of UCSD in Pharmacology training, this is the nation’s largest predoctoral training grant in Pharmacological Sciences and it has been continuously funded for the last 31 years. The grant was renewed in 2009 and supports 15 trainees.

Program Faculty in Molecular Pharmacology

Secondary Track

Adjunct Faculty in Department of Pharmacology – Other faculty who are affiliated with and involved in educational efforts of the Department of Pharmacology or SPPS are listed on the Pharmacology Department website.

Required coursework for BMS students

BMS students take a core curriculum that provides the foundation to allow them to specialize in any of the offered tracks, focus areas, or customized study. In the Fall quarter, "Molecules to Organisms" (BIOM 200A&B) provides a systematic approach to current Biomedical Research, using analysis of selected topics to focus on the process of research discovery and its critical evaluation. "Seminar in Biomedical Research" (BIOM 201) includes attendance at one of the UCSD seminar series and is designed to provoke critical discussion of the presented findings and scientific approaches in a small group setting. BMS students also take short courses in statistical analysis of data (BIOM 285) and ethics in research (BIOM 219) in the third quarter of their first year.

Specialized Coursework - See Pharmacology Courses website for links to individual courses

Core Track Courses Required for Pharmacological Sciences Trainees (Part of 15 unit BMS elective requirement)
QuarterCourse NumberCourse TitleUnits
WBIOM/PHAR 255AMolecular Basis of Drug Action and Disease Therapy I: (Brunton/Insel)3
SBIOM/PHAR 255B Molecular Basis of Drug Action and Disease Therapy II: (Brunton/Brown)3
WBIOM/PHAR 275Seminars in Pharmacology (once)2
Elective Courses Required for Trainees (to fulfill 15 unit BMS elective requirement)
QuarterCourse NumberCourse TitleUnits
FPHAR 201 Structural Bioinformatics with an Emphasis on Biological Data (Bourne)4
SCHEM 118 Pharmacology and Toxicology (Tukey)4
WCHEM 221/BGGN 230Intracellular Signal Transduction: Molecular Mechanism, Network Function and Pharmacological Intervention (David/Hoffman)4
SBIOM/PHAR 234Drug Discovery/Careers in Biomedical Science (Heller Brown)1
WBI0M/PHAR 235 Pharmacogenomics (Taylor/Adler)2
FTBD*Structural Biology in Cell Signaling and Drug Discovery (Pellecchia/Riedl)2
WBIOM/PHAR 275Seminars in Pharmacology (additional years)2
F, W, SPHAR 294Signal Transduction and Cardiovascular Journal Club (Heller Brown/Insel)1
WBIOM/PHAR 231 (Even Years)Contemporary Topics in Pharmacology: Fluorescence Tools for Cellular and Molecular Events (Tsien/Taylor)1
WPATH 221Molecular Pathology of Cancer (Kamps)4
SBIOM/PHAR/PATH 228Modern Drug Discovery Techniques (Huang/Pellecchia)2
SPHAR210/BIOM267Drug Discovery, Development & Commercialization (Ettouati/Ma)3
WBIOM/PHAR 221Professional Development for Graduate and Doctoral Students (Bourne)1
F[Cancer Center]The Cancer Therapeutics Training Program Lecture Series (Howell)
SNEU277Neuropsychopharmacology (Kuczenski)4

Non-Course Requirements:

Pharmacology Research Discussion (BIOM 295/1 unit): students and postdoctoral fellows present their research weekly.

Signal Transduction Journal Club (BIOM 294/1 unit): students read and critically analyze recent papers in the field.