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Research Benefits Students, Cancer Patients


Drake pharmacy students study pharmacogenomics, considered by many to be the future of pharmaceutics.

When Pramod Mahajan, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, talks about the Drake students who have assisted with his research, the pride in his voice is evident. He speaks with a particular passion about those who entered his lab uncertain about their futures as scientists and left with a new clarity about their research interests and careers.

"We take pride that we are working with undergraduates and drawing them into science," Mahajan says. "It's a lot of fun to work with these young scientists. They ask very good questions. They help me see things in new ways."

Seeking Better Medicine
Because of the nature of his work, Mahajan draws high student interest. Using human breast and ovarian cancer cells, Mahajan studies human DNA. When DNA is damaged, cells undergo a process of assessment to detect and repair the damage. If scientists better understand this process, current drugs can be improved, or new ones can be created to better prevent and cure disease.

"It's interesting to students because almost anything you discover will be new," Mahajan says. 

Michael Buege, a second-year pharmacy student, says his first conversation with Mahajan about his research left him "starry-eyed." Since Buege began working in the lab, he has learned an incredible amount about planning and conducting experiments in addition to the subject matter itself.

"Dr. Mahajan's skill in one-on-one teaching has made me more inquisitive and a better learner, and his insight has helped me develop my goals for the future," Buege says. "My research experience has been one of the highlights of my Drake experience."

Pushing Toward the Future
In addition to his research, Mahajan leads Drake's program in pharmacogenomics—considered by many to be the future of pharmaceutics. This cutting-edge area of medicine looks at how individuals respond to different medications based on their genetic make-up. Learning about this relatively new topic puts Drake students at a considerable advantage.

"Our students will be able to lead educated discussions about the ethics of this field, educate law makers, and be better partners for their patients," Mahajan says.

Both Mahajan's research and his advancement of pharmacogenomics at Drake have been made possible through philanthropy. His research is conducted in the Ellis Pharmacogenomics and Disease Prevention Laboratories, created with a generous lead gift from Audrey and Jack, PH'57, Ellis. It is funded in part by the Dan and Pat Jorndt Faculty Development Fund, which was established though the generosity of Dan, PH'63, and Pat, AS'64, Jorndt.

While these gifts have driven Mahajan's scholarly pursuits, they also benefit the student experience immensely through exposure to new subject areas and opportunities for collaborative research.

"Working with your hands is an effective way of learning," Mahajan says. "What you do with your hands, you never forget. That kind of experience is very valuable."

Show Your Support
If you would like to make a gift to support Drake's pharmacy or science programs and students, please contact John Amato at 515-271-2849 or to find out which option is right for you.

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