The School of Pharmacy has received a $1.25 million gift from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. to establish an endowed chair in mechanistic drug toxicology, the first such chair in the nation.
The gift, announced on Feb. 24, will allow the school to attract a nationally recognized researcher who has made significant contributions to the field.
Mechanistic toxicology is the study of the processes and mechanisms underlying the toxicity of chemicals. It explains how foreign compounds such as drugs, environmental pollutants, and industrial chemicals exert their potentially damaging effects on cells and tissues.
The field is widely regarded as the next frontier for drug development and medical breakthroughs because of its potential to greatly reduce the number of drugs that fail to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration safety standards during the extensive clinical trial period.
The chair-holder will investigate new processes for evaluating experimental drugs and predictive methods for identifying compound toxicities, and educate students on how to successfully apply these techniques to develop potentially safer and more effective medications.
“The cost of drug development is skyrocketing because so many drugs fail in pre-clinical and clinical studies as a result of safety concerns,” said Dr. Peter Farina, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s senior vice president of development. “Boehringer Ingelheim’s investment in UConn and in the field of mechanistic toxicology will help to accelerate the next round of medical breakthroughs and
ultimately lower the cost of life-saving medications.
“This partnership between the state’s flagship public research university and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. positions the state of Connecticut at the forefront of this dynamic and rapidly developing field,” said Farina.
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. selected UConn’s School of Pharmacy as the recipient for its investment in the field of mechanistic toxicology because of the strong national reputation of its toxicology program and also because of existing collaborations between the company’s scientists and faculty and students in the school, he added.
The announcement was made in the new 220,000-square-foot, $94.6 million Pharmacy/Biology building on the Storrs campus, which was funded through the UConn 2000 building program.
“Boehringer Ingelheim’s generous gift to the School of Pharmacy demonstrates the return we are seeing on the state’s investment in UConn and the momentum we have underway here at the school,” said Robert McCarthy, dean of pharmacy.
“The creation of this endowed chair in mechanistic toxicology – the first of its kind at any research institution nationwide – raises our national profile and cements our standing among this country’s elite schools of pharmacy.”
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s gift to the School of Pharmacy is the third significant donation the school has received from a major Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company in less than two years.
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. previously donated $250,000 to name a laboratory in the new Pharmacy/ Biology Building that specializes in dosage forms.
n June 2004, New London-based Pfizer Global Research and Development, a division of Pfizer Inc., created a distinguished endowed chair in pharmaceutical technology at the school.
The School of Pharmacy also has attracted two of the nation’s leading medicinal chemists and their research teams from Dartmouth University since its new high-tech home – with spacious classrooms and state-of-the-art lab spaces – was completed over the summer.
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. has previously endowed faculty positions at the UConn Health Center and Yale University.
UConn has a total of 55 endowed chairs and 17 endowed professorships.