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Researchers in the University of Utah Department of Molecular Pharmaceutics are dedicated to finding more effective and less toxic methods of drug delivery. Read about four faculty members associated with the department and their research.

‘These are real people’: Mingnan Chen

University of Utah molecular pharmaceutics professor Mingnan Chen and his colleagues published a paper in 2019 detailing their work to develop a new treatment for autoimmune diseases that would target unhealthy immune cells while leaving normal, beneficial immune cells alone.

After publication, Chen received letters and emails from people around the world inquiring about potential clinical trials, hoping they would soon have better options to treat autoimmune diseases. Current treatments target all immune cells, including normal cells, and leave patients with chronic immune deficiency. “Obviously, they’re not as satisfied with their current treatment,” Chen said. “These are real people. They’re not just some phrases on the paper.”

From U student to department chair: Hamid Ghandehari

After Hamid Ghandehari graduated from the University of Utah with his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacy and pharmaceutics & pharmaceutical chemistry, he spent about 11 years working for other universities before he made his way back to the U.

Upon returning to the U as a USTAR professor in 2007, he continued his research in the Departments of Molecular Pharmaceutics and Biomedical Engineering. Ghandehari has since established himself as one of the great U researchers. His lab focuses on drug delivery to specific sites in the body in order to minimize side effects while maximizing the benefits of the drug. The scope of his research includes not only studying different types of biomaterials to serve as carriers for the drugs, but also making the materials and then testing them both on cells and later animal models.

From academia to industry and back again: Abigail Pulsipher

The pathway to a faculty position at a university can be long and circuitous. For Abigail Pulsipher, a research assistant professor in the Otolaryngology and Molecular Pharmaceutics departments, that journey took her from a postdoc in California to working at a University of Utah spinout company—GlycoMira—before landing her current position at the U.

Pulsipher has taken the lessons she learned from industry and applied them to her lab and research at the U. “We base our projects and our hypotheses on sound basic science,” she said. “But then we are also thinking way ahead down the road and kind of engineering backwards because we're thinking from the ‘bedside back to bench back to bedside’ approach.”

Connecting basic scientists and clinicians: Venkata "Kash" Yellepeddi

One of the University of Utah’s greatest assets are its faculty and researchers. Not only do we boast leading experts in research and education, but we also have excellent clinicians who both care for patients and work to find solutions to today’s healthcare challenges.

While both types of faculty members are great alone, they impact more people when they collaborate together. Venkata “Kash” Yellepeddi, an associate professor of pediatrics, focuses on translational research and hopes to serve as a bridge between the two areas.

“We have excellent basic scientists, and we have the best clinical facilities and clinicians, and we have so many patients,” Yellepeddi said. “I think by connecting these two groups with the proper translational methodology, we can bring transformative change in healthcare and improve the health of many millions of people.”

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