Molecular Pharmacology

Faculty Contact: Alexandra Newton & Tracy Handel

The Molecular Pharmacology Training Area is organized through the Department of Pharmacology, a basic science department serving the School of Medicine and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences (SSPPS). The more than forty BMS faculty with primary affiliations in this training area are largely those in Pharmacology and SSPPS but faculty from Medicine, Anesthesiology, Neuroscience and Psychiatry also choose Molecular Pharmacology as their primary training area. 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 training area 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 Training Area 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 Training Area 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 currently supports 16 trainees in affiliated labs.

Find BMS Faculty in Molecular Pharmacology

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 web sites of the Pharmacology Department and the Molecular Pharmacology Training Program.

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 training areas. 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 UC San Diego 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 second or third quarter of their first year.

Specialized Coursework

See Pharmacology Courses website for links to individual courses.

Core Training Area Courses Required for Pharmacological Sciences Trainees 

Quarter Course Number Course Title Units
W BIOM/PHAR 255A Molecular Basis of Drug Action and Disease Therapy I: (Brunton/Insel) 3
S BIOM/PHAR 255B Molecular Basis of Drug Action and Disease Therapy II: (Brunton/Brown) 3
W BIOM/PHAR 275 Seminars in Pharmacology (once) 2

Elective Courses for Trainees (to fulfill 15 unit BMS elective requirement)

Quarter Course Number Course Title Units
F PHAR 201 Structural Bioinformatics with an Emphasis on Biological Data (Bourne) 4
S CHEM 118 Pharmacology and Toxicology (Tukey) 4
W CHEM 221/BGGN 230 Intracellular Signal Transduction: Molecular Mechanism, Network Function and Pharmacological Intervention (David/Hoffman) 4
S BIOM/PHAR 234 Drug Discovery/Careers in Biomedical Science (Heller Brown) 1
W BI0M/PHAR 235 Pharmacogenomics (Taylor/Adler) 2
F TBD* Structural Biology in Cell Signaling and Drug Discovery (Pellecchia/Riedl) 2
W BIOM/PHAR 275 Seminars in Pharmacology (additional years) 2
F, W, S PHAR 294 Signal Transduction and Cardiovascular Journal Club (Heller Brown/Insel) 1
W BIOM/PHAR 231 (Even Years) Contemporary Topics in Pharmacology: Fluorescence Tools for Cellular and Molecular Events (Tsien/Taylor) 1
W PATH 221 Molecular Pathology of Cancer (Kamps) 4
S BIOM/PHAR/PATH 228 Modern Drug Discovery Techniques (Huang/Pellecchia) 2
S PHAR210/BIOM267 Drug Discovery, Development & Commercialization (Ettouati/Ma) 3
W BIOM/PHAR 221 Professional Development for Graduate and Doctoral Students (Bourne) 1
F [Cancer Center] The Cancer Therapeutics Training Program Lecture Series (Howell)
S NEU277 Neuropsychopharmacology (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.