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Therapeutics and Pharmacology

The discovery, development and application of therapeutics is a rapidly growing field that includes disease biology, identification of novel molecular targets, molecular modeling, chemistry to synthesize and identify small molecule inhibitors, drug design and understanding metabolic pathways — and that’s just for starters.

Course Requirements

In addition to the general GSBS course requirements, the T&P Program requires the following courses: 

Program Course Requirements for PhD students

  • GS04 1103 Principles of Therapeutics
  • Six (6) credit hours of electives -- recommended electives*:
    • GS01 1033 Introduction to Biostatistics and Clinical Trials
    • GS01 1143 Introduction to Bioinformatics
    • GS03 1023 Current Methods in Biochemistry and Cell Biology
    • GS04 1213 Mechanisms in Cancer Therapeutics
    • GS04 1233 Basic and Translational Cancer Biology
    • GS04 1243 Epigenetics: From Mechanism to Disease
    • GS06 1013 Fundamental Immunology
    • GS11 1073 Introduction to Genomics and Bioinformatics
    • GS13 1024 Molecular Basis of Cell Signaling
    • GS13 1063 Toxicology I: Principles of Toxicology
    • GS21 1232 Translational Sciences: From Bench to Bedside and Back
    • GS21 1613 Translational Cancer Research

Program Course Requirements for MS students

GS04 1103 Principles of Therapeutics
One elective course (approved by the program director)

Students who declare a Secondary Area of Concentration in Therapeutics and Pharmacology are:

  • Required to take the “Principles of Therapeutics” course, GS04 1103, and:
  • Six (6) credit hours of electives – recommended electives*                                                                                                 

Course Descriptions

  • Basic and Translational Cancer Biology
    Course Detail

    GS04 1235 (5 credits)

    Hu, Jian; Ying, Haoqing.  Five semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System:  Letter Grade. Prerequisite: None. Audit Permitted. 

    The Cancer Biology Core course will synthesize knowledge of critical aspects in human cancer biology for understanding disease development, multidimensional molecular signatures, diagnostics, and therapeutics.     

    Curriculum Committee Commended Course for Academic Year 2020-2021

  • Current Methods in Biochemistry and Cell Biology
    Course Detail

    GS03 1023 (3 credits)

    Putkey, John. Three semester hour. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: GS21 1017: Foundations of Biomedical Research or 2 semesters of undergraduate biochemistry.

    The goal of this course is to instruct students in cutting edge methodologies that relate to both structural and molecular biology. The class will consists of 43 1-hour lectures held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Individual lecturers are chosen from multiple GSBS Graduate Programs based on their expertise in the relevant technologies.  The lectures will provide a sound foundation in the principles, appropriate applications, and limitations of a repertoire of techniques ranging from qRT-PCR to metabolomic profiling to basic recombinant protein expression and analysis.  The course is designed to act synergistically with techniques covered in the Core Course.

  • Epigenetics: From Mechanism to Disease
    Course Detail

    GS04 1243 (3 credits)

    Mark Bedford, Taiping Chen, Xiaobing Shi. Three semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisites: Undergraduate biochemistry and genetics (one semester, but one year strongly recommended) or graduate-level biochemistry and genetics courses (one semester). 

    Epigenetics is defined as the study of heritable changes in gene expression or phenotype that does not involve changes to the underlying DNA sequence. In our body, each cell has the same set of genes, yet different cell types look very different from each other (for example - fat cells vs neurons vs T cells) and they each perform very distinct functions. These differences are achieved by epigenetic control of gene expression. In disease states like cancer, the epigenetic control of gene expression can go awry. This course will cover the principles of epigenetic control of gene expression and chromatin dynamics, how epigenetic regulation contributes to stem cell identity, cellular differentiation and development, and how it goes wrong in diseases including cancer. In addition, the course material will cover the common techniques used for epigenetic studies. This course is organized into 2 lectures a week. The teaching philosophy emphasizes understanding of central concepts and development of critical thinking through lecturing and class discussion. An important aspect of this course is distance learning: half the lectures will be given in Houston classrooms and video conferenced to Science Park, and the other half of the lectures will be given in Science Park and video conferenced to Houston.

  • Fundamental Immunology
    Course Detail

    GS06 1013 (3 credits)

    Yoshimoto, Momoko. Three semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisites: Undergraduate-level Biology and Biochemistry courses plus a basic knowledge of cellular and molecular biology.

    Topics covered in this lecture series include anatomy and development of the immune system; structure, function and genetics of antibodies; T-cell antigen receptors; functions and cooperative interactions of lymphoid cells; structure and function of molecules encoded by the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC); lymphokines and their receptors; cellular interaction molecules; and specific immunological tolerance.  Medically-related subjects that will be covered from a basic science perspective include immunopathology, immunodeficiency, allergy and other hypersensitivities, autoimmunity, organ transplantation, tumor immunology, and AIDS.  

  • Introduction to Bioinformatics
    Course Detail

    GS01 1143 (3 credits)
    Spring and Fall

    Chen, Ken and Navin, Nicholas. Three-credit hour. Fall and Spring annually. Grading System: Letter Grade.

    This course is intended to be an introduction to concepts and methods in bioinformatics with a focus on analyzing data merging from high throughput experimental pipelines such as next-gen sequencing. Students will be exposed to algorithms and software tools involved in various aspects of data processing and biological interpretation. Though some prior programming experience is highly recommended, it is not a requirement.

  • Introduction to Biostatistics and Clinical Trials
    Course Detail

    GS01 1033 (3 credits)

    Yuan, Ying; Liu, Suyu. Three semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: Calculus and linear algebra

    This course is a one-semester overview of statistical concepts most often used in the design and analysis of biomedical studies. It provides an introduction to the analysis of biomedical and epidemiological data. The focus is on non-model-based solutions to one sample and two sample problems. The course also includes an overview of statistical genetics and bioinformatics concepts. Because this course is primarily for statistics majors, the applied methods will be related to theory whenever practical. Students will gain experience in the general approach to data analysis and in the application of appropriate statistical methods. Emphasis will be on the similarity between various forms of analysis and reporting results in terms of measures of effect or association. Emphasis will also be given to identifying statistical assumptions and performing analyses to verify these assumptions. Because effective communication is essential to effective collaboration, students will gain experience in presenting results for statistically naive readers.

  • Mechanisms in Cancer Therapeutics
    Course Detail

    GS04 1213 (3 credits)

    Konopleva, Marina. Three semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: Background in biochemistry and cell biology

    This course will establish a foundation of the principles of cancer therapy, including pharmacologic rationales, consideration of biological targets, and mechanism-based approaches to combinations. A major emphasis will be placed on agents that damage DNA, and the response of tumor cells to such insults. In-depth presentations will consider all classes of chemotherapeutic agents, their metabolism, and mechanisms of action, and the resistance mechanisms of tumor cells. Mechanistic rationales for other therapeutic modalities used for cancer treatment such as radiotherapy, gene therapy, and immunotherapy will also be covered. Students will have the opportunity to learn to identify novel therapeutic targets, and the procedures used to develop new agents for clinical evaluation.

  • Molecular Basis of Cell Signaling
    Course Detail

    GS13 1024 (4 credits)

    Du, Guangwei.  Four semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisites: Background in biochemistry and cell biology; Consent of instructor.

    This course provides a detailed exploration of the molecular basis of cell signaling with emphasis on recent developments, structure-function, and quantitation.  The course will include both the regulation of second messenger systems (GPCRs, G proteins, cAMP, IP3 and lipid), ion channels, growth factor-regulated tyrosine kinases, small G proteins (ras, GEFs, Gaps), kinase/phosphatase pathways, steroid hormones/transcription, and the modeling of these systems. 

  • Principles of Therapeutics
    Course Detail

    GS04 1103 (3 credits)

    Zhang, Shuxing. Three semester hour. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: undergraduate level biochemistry and biology.

    This course will establish a foundation in the principles of therapeutics, lectured by >35 experts including 1/3 basic research faculty, 1/3 clinical faculty, and 1/3 pharma/biotech industry veterans. It starts with discussions on disease processes, through therapy development, then to clinical translation. The course is grouped into a series of general topics. The first topic includes disease mechanisms in microbial, viral, fungal, neurodegenerative, and malignant settings in order to better understand the nature of the problems. The second topic focuses on the development of lead molecules and drug design, including x-ray crystallography, molecular modeling, hit identification, lead optimization, and pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies. The third topic puts emphasis on drug screening methodologies, including high-throughput/content technologies and molecular imaging as well as in vitro and in vivo preclinical model systems. The fourth topic covers different therapeutic modalities and improved drug delivery systems. It also describes the latest development of immunotherapy, cell therapy, gene therapy, and stem cell transplantation. The fifth topic focuses on the identification of novel molecular targeting strategies and efforts toward individualization of therapy with state-of-the-art –omics technologies and biomarker development. The final topic group focuses on translating therapeutic strategies to the clinic, including the phases of preclinical studies, clinical trial design and execution, and regulatory considerations. There will be three exams; each constitutes 33.33% of the final grade.  The exam structure is essay based.

    Curriculum Committee Commended Course for Academic Year 2020-2021

  • Toxicology I Principles of Toxicology
    Course Detail

    GS13 1063 (3 credits)

    Smith, Mary Ann. Three semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: Prior biological science coursework required (i.e., biology, chemistry or physiology); consent of instructor.

    This course presents basic principles of toxicology and their applications to the understanding of xenobiotic-induced target organ toxicity. Topics covered include toxicant disposition, mechanisms of toxicity and target organ responses to toxic agents. A broad overview of various classes of toxic agents will be presented in the context of their exposure routes, disposition, toxicologic sequelae, and mechanisms of toxicity.  This course is designed to provide a foundation for understanding the complex interactions between toxicants and biologic systems. The course is cross-listed at UT School of Public Health (PH 2175).  The venue of the course will be at the SPH.

  • Translational Cancer Research
    Course Detail

    GS21 1613 (3 credits)

    Bast, Robert. Three semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: Cancer Biology (GS041063) preferred

    This course will provide a primer for translational cancer research and will review concisely the current understanding of human cancer biology that is driving interest in targeted therapy and personalized management for prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. Techniques used to characterize human cancers at a cellular and molecular level will be described. Concepts, examples and alternative strategies to achieve individualized targeted therapy will be presented. Processes for developing drugs and biomarkers will be reviewed. Translation from bench to bedside and back will be outlined for surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology and cancer imaging. Challenges for translation in cancer prevention will be considered. Infrastructure required for translational research will be reviewed, including tissue banks, biopsies, interventional radiology, molecular pathology, molecular imaging, bioinformatics, biostatistics, novel trial design and interactive databases. Objectives and paths for training and career development will be outlined as well as the sociology of team science. Interactions between Academe, Pharma, the NCI, FDA and Foundations will be explored. Finally, the course will analyze barriers to more rapid translation of cancer research to the clinic and community. This course consists of a two hour lecture and one hour seminar, weekly.

  • Translational Sciences: From Bedside to Bench and Back
    Course Detail

    GS21 1232 (2 credits)

    Kopetz, Scott. Two semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: none

    This is an integrated, multidisciplinary course designed to provide students the necessary tools to devise, fund, implement, and publish exemplary research involving patients or materials obtained from a human source. Students participating in this course will gain an understanding of the depth, complexity, and limitations of integrating laboratory and clinical research into investigations of human disease. After completion of the course, students will understand the importance of translational research: using laboratory findings to benefit human patients (bench to bedside) and investigating clinical observations in the laboratory (bedside to bench). This course is distinct from Human Protocol Research (GS211132); this course focuses on the interrelationship between laboratory-based and clinical research. A culture that fosters translational research of the highest quality requires laboratory and clinical investigators appreciate the scientific complexity of patient-oriented translational research. 

Doctoral Candidacy Exam Requirements

  • Students may select either an on-topic or off-topic format for their The TAP Ph.D. Candidacy Exam.  At least one member of the TAP program will be a member of the Examination Committee.
  • The On-topic proposal should contain original material developed by and written by the student. It will follow the NIH NRSA-F award format of one page specific aims and a six page proposal that includes Significance, Innovation and Approach, which will be the focus of the Depth of Knowledge questioning.  The Examination Committee will provide the student with three breadth areas not directly related to the student’s proposal four weeks in advance of the exam to assess the student’s Breadth of Knowledge. 
  • For the Off-topic proposal, the student will provide the Examination Committee a single page of the specific aims of the proposed dissertation project and three abstracts of potential off-topic proposals for the examination. The Examination Committee will recommend which of the three topics they believe will provide a stronger proposal, but the student will make the final choice. The proposal will follow the NIH NRSA-F award format. Depth of Knowledge will be assessed from questions related to the proposal and Breadth of Knowledge may address area of dissertation research.