Research: Taking on tough problems in areas of need

Innovative. Impactful. Collaborative. Health sciences research is an important strategic priority at UBC Pharm Sci and one that seeks to address the problems of today, so as to make a difference in patients' lives tomorrow. 

Dr. John McNeill joined the University of British Columbia in 1971, and served in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences as professor from 1975 and dean from 1985 to 1996. His research focuses on the effects of drugs on the heart, particularly those associated with diabetes.

In reflecting on his early years conducting research at the Faculty, McNeill speaks to the tremendous increase in researchers and funding over the years.

“When I first arrived (at UBC Pharm Sci) there were only five or six people conducting research and the size of a good research grant was about $10,000. Equipment was limited and there were only a few graduate students. The PhD program had just begun,” he says.

“There was little to no clinical research being done at the Faculty at the time. Today, clinical research is one of our strongest areas. The Faculty now has researchers with international reputations who have founded their own companies.”

In 2020–2021 the total research income generated at UBC Pharm Sci was $10.5 million. The Faculty has benefited from the creation and consolidation of four focused research themes, each carefully developed to align with areas of societal need.

The Nanomedicine and Chemical Biology theme encompasses research expertise in the chemical biology of the fabrication and handling of nanoscopic materials through to drug discovery and delivery.

Members of the Molecular and Systems Pharmacology theme conduct research directed at the interactions of therapeutic agents with human cells, from the mechanisms of the drug action through to the behaviour of drugs in human systems.

The Health Outcomes theme includes significant work being done in epidemiological analysis, health outcomes and health economics. The impact of this work includes shaping policy around health care resources and clarifying the effectiveness of various strategies and interventions. 

Finally, the Pharmacy Education Research and Leadership theme focusses on scholarship in pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, seeking to expand educational research at the Faculty and enhance the methodologies of teaching practice, student learning and curriculum decision-making.

The Faculty continues to grow from strength to strength in research capability and output. 

“We continue to expand and consolidate our research themes and have worked to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of each theme through recruitment and hiring,” says Dr. Michael Coughtrie, professor and dean.

“Also of note, we are working to strengthen our research facilities and support. This includes strategic investments in research information technology, analytical sciences, and statistics and imaging. Finally, we will continue to make knowledge mobilization a priority. This will help to extend the impact and effectiveness of the work conducted by our outstanding researchers.” 

To learn more about research at UBC Pharm Sci, click here.

Images (from top): Graduate students at work; Laboratory space in the Pharmaceutical Sciences building; Deans emeriti Drs. Bernard Riedel, Frank Abbott, John McNeill, and Finlay Morrison; Conducting research in a laboratory space.