One-hundred fifty top pharmaceutical graduate students from as far away as Australia and Thailand had an opportunity to listen, question and rub shoulders in Lawrence yesterday with about 50 of the top pharmaceutical professors from around the world.
"This is the chance to get some one-on-one time," said Kelly Desino, co-chairwoman of the biennial conference of GPEN, which stands for Globalization of Pharmaceutics Education Network.
On the third day of the conference, participants heard short presentations at the Spring Hill Suites and Eldridge Hotel's Crystal Ballroom on subjects from clinical trials and testing in humans to specific presentations on molecular delivery of chemicals.
In his lecture, Per Artursson, professor of pharmacy at Uppsala University in Sweden, spoke on "pharmaceutical profiling" through which more promising drugs are able to be isolated and developed through methods other than expensive and time-consuming clinical trials.
Through computer model bio-systems and cell cultures, Artursson said, properties of drugs have been tested successfully while reducing the number of clinical trials needed, especially on animals.
Failure has dropped in some cases from 40 percent to 9 percent, he said.
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"It's very important to predict these properties because it's very expensive to produce drugs," he said.
Kansas University professor Valentino Stella, who also lectured, focused in part on drug solubility and what role it plays in having the body absorb drugs.
Stella said the challenge is to find out what critical variables, such as solubility, are and how to determine whether a certain chemical can be a drug. And as more complex drug molecules are designed, the pharmaceutical community will have to come up with more innovative tools to make them effective, he said.
"It's very difficult," he said, "but that's what we get paid the bucks to do."
Other lectures included how to make the collection of lab data better and faster.
The GPEN conference is run by KU graduate students with help by faculty.
Participants came from about 16 countries where universities sent one faculty member and top students, Desino said.
It's not just about academics. It's also about networking with fellow graduate students and making contacts not only with universities throughout the world but also pharmaceutical companies.
Sheng-Xue Xie, a postgraduate student studying proteins who got his doctorate in Kyoto, Japan, said he was able to interview with a pharmaceutical company for a senior scientist position.
Yvonne Yang and Deanne Mitchell, who both flew 24 hours from the University of Queensland in Australia, said the conference lectures could spark insights that could contribute to their work in destroying HIV.