Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutics

Pharmacology and Toxicology together form a discipline that examines the interactions of chemical substances with living systems. Pharmacology focuses on the properties of drugs, including their sites of action, processing by the human body, and therapeutic uses. Toxicology studies the adverse effects of chemicals such as environmental agents and synthetic compounds, including drugs and their metabolites, and the means to prevent or treat their effects  Because the study of chemicals requires an intimate knowledge of the biological systems affected, Pharmacology and Toxicology are by necessity an integrative discipline that studies the effects of chemicals at the molecular, cellular, organ, organismal, and population levels.

Faculty members in the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Therapeutics at KUMC have diverse research interests. These research topics are essential for developing new drugs and are fundamental to determining the safety of all chemicals. Thus, our students obtain a broad educational background that prepares them for a career in research and scholarly work in a variety of settings, including academia, the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industries, or governmental agencies. Our department faculty has an excellent record of training students, and our graduates have become scientific leaders in academia, government and industry.

During the last five years, the Department faculty has undergone major changes with the addition of several tenure-track and research-track faculty, with a major focus in liver pathobiology and toxicology. This was facilitated in part by a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant from the National Institutes of Health, and has been accompanied by major new equipment purchases. The Department is been housed in state-of-the-art research space in the Hemenway Life Science Innovation Center. These resources provide an exciting environment that fosters personal and professional development in an atmosphere with ample opportunities for independent scholarship and strong collaborative activities.

Research opportunities are available for graduate students in the laboratories of faculty members throughout the department. Pharmacology faculty members have research interests in molecular and cellular neuropharmacology, neurotrauma, and the role of hormones and diet constituents on brain function. In addition, department faculty members study pharmacokinetics of drugs (absorption, distribution, biotransformation and excretion) and the biology and functional significance of drug transporters such as organic anion transporting polypeptides (OATPs), organic cation transporters (OCTs), and ATP binding cassette transporters. Our faculty members’ research interests in Toxicology include the toxicity of environmental chemicals, mechanisms of drug- and chemical-induced hepatotoxicity (necrosis, apoptosis, autophagy, inflammation, fibrosis) and liver regeneration. Furthermore, they study the pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma, alcoholic hepatitis, steatohepatitis and cholestatic liver disease, and the role of nuclear receptors in these disease processes. Likewise, in Therapeutics, faculty members use metabolomics approaches to study herbal medicines’ ability to cause drug interactions with prescribed drugs. In addition, studies are being performed to understand which drugs enter the liver by specific transporters, and how genetics determine why the response to drugs can vary between individual patients (pharmacogenomics).