Graduate students showcase cutting-edge research at Pharmacy Research Day

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Students presenting research posters at Pharmacy Researchy Day

Alzheimer’s, diabetes, hemophilia, pharmacist-administered vaccination, digital health applications – these are just a few of the topics explored at Waterloo Pharmacy’s second Pharmacy Research Day.

The annual event featured over 20 oral and poster presentations from pharmacy MSc and PhD students and graduate students from other departments in the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.

“Pharmacy Research Day is designed to generate conversations around our graduate students’ incredibly diverse work,” said Shawn Wettig, Associate Director of Graduate Studies and Research. “The event provides young researchers with the opportunity to present their findings to an engaged audience of faculty and peers from across campus.”

Donald WeaverThe day kicked off with a keynote presentation from Donald Weaver (right), a Director and Senior Scientist of the Krembil Research Institute. Weaver is trained as a physician and neurologist and teaches at the University of Toronto, and his presentation was called ‘Design and development of disease modifying drugs for Alzheimer’s dementia.’

There are 7.7 million new cases of Alzheimer’s disease a year worldwide and there is no cure. Weaver and his team use computer-aided drug design to target the potential causes of the disease. Two of the compounds designed by his lab have reached Phase III human clinical trials.

Weaver also offered insight from his career as an entrepreneur and co-founder of eight start-up biotech companies. In a time when drug development funding is hard to come by, he encouraged participants to explore patenting and starting companies as a means of translating research into action. Failure, he assured the audience, is an inevitable part of the drug discovery process: it is essential to avoid being discouraged and to move on and try new approaches.

“Even though there’ve been lots of failures in the area of Alzheimer’s drug development,” Weaver said, “I’d like to think that what we’ve achieved is memorable, and that it will lead to something in the not too distant future.”

Amna El ShatshatThe oral presentations that followed Weaver’s keynote demonstrated the breadth of research undertaken at Waterloo Pharmacy. Like Weaver, some students examined Alzheimer treatment design: MSc candidate Amna El Shatshat (left) discussed the impact that polyunsaturated fats have on plaques that form in the brain and are a potential contributor to Alzheimer’s. Other students tackled quantitative research like PhD candidate Kate Mercer who examined how research changes when undertaken by multi-disciplinary teams that include patients. 

Three of the ten oral presentations demonstrated how pharmacokinetics – a field that use math models to determine how drugs are absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted from the body – can improve dosing decisions for various medications. The oral presentations were followed by a poster session where student researchers had the opportunity to share and discuss their work with the audience.

Amy Phan presenting her research to two graduate students“The sheer variety in topics addressed demonstrate the well-roundedness of both our faculty and our students,” says Wettig. “Pharmacy Research Day helps spark conversations that cross disciplines, and gives us all a sense of the varied and impressive accomplishments of our graduate students.

This event was made possible by the generous support of Fresenius Kabi and Sanofi Pasteur.

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