The UCI Pharmacology faculty members teaching in the Master of Science in Pharmacology degree program share a strong foundation in the fields of pharmacology and drug discovery. They are renowned nationally and internationally for their scientific research. A number of faculty members have worked in and/or actually founded pharmaceutical companies, so they have industry as well as academic backgrounds. Many have close ties with industry, both locally and internationally. These relationships are a key asset to the MSP program and its students. In addition, a number of faculty hold patents relative to drug discoveries they have made.
Olivier Civelli, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor of Pharmacology; Eric L. and Lila D. Nelson Endowed Chair in Neuropharmacology
Dr. Civelli is currently serving as MSP Program Director and has responsibility for oversight and general administration of the program. Dr. Civelli is a recognized leader in the field of neuropsychopharmacology. He was the first to clone the D2 dopamine receptor and discovered the diversity of the dopamine receptors, in particular the D4 receptor. He spearheaded reverse pharmacology and used it to discover the first new neuropeptide identified by this approach, nociceptin/orphanin FQ and later neuropeptide S. He discovered the receptors for melanin concentrating hormone and for urotensin II. His primary interest is the study of neuropsychiatric disorders, in particular schizophrenia. Dr. Civelli is well versed in the area of pharmaceutical drug discovery. Earlier in his career, he was a vice president at F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Basel and was head of one of the company’s preclinical research departments. He also started a biotechnology company. Dr. Civelli has authored more than 200 manuscripts and holds 30 patents.
Geoffrey Abbott, Ph.D.
Vice Chair and Professor of Pharmacology
Research in Dr. Abbott’s lab is focused on elucidating the molecular basis for ion channel and transporter physiology and pathophysiology, and his work is currently funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIGMS, NIDCD and NIDDK). His approach requires a combination of techniques including mouse and human genetics, electrophysiology, pharmacology, and state-of-the-art imaging modalities. Dr. Abbott serves on the editorial board of three internationally-recognized journals, and before joining UC Irvine, he trained at University of London and Yale School of Medicine, and was a tenured professor at Weill-Cornell Medical School.
Amal Alachkar, Ph.D.
Adjunct Associate Professor of Pharmacology
Dr. Alachkar was trained as a pharmacist and received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Manchester, UK. She has extensive background in molecular and behavioral neuroscience and neuropharmacology. Dr. Alachkar established the first neuroscience laboratory in Syria in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Aleppo before moving to the US. Her research focuses on associations between genetic and environmental factors and mental disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and depression. Dr. Alachkar is investigating potential therapies using an epigenetic model of schizophrenia that involves methionine exposure during gestation. She has discovered that melanin concentrating hormone receptor knock out (MCHR1 KO) female mice display maternal deficits and is studying this model to develop the potential therapeutic use of MCHR1 antagonists for the treatment of postpartum depression in humans.
James D. Belluzzi, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology
Dr. Belluzzi’s research is focused on drugs of abuse (cocaine, nicotine) and brain mechanisms of reward and reinforcement. He currently studies age-related changes in the reinforcing effects of cocaine and whether nicotine during adolescence alters cocaine’s reinforcing actions. Dr. Belluzzi utilizes animal behavioral models such as drug self-administration and conditioned place preference, and he has extensive experience with the design, performance, and analysis of behavioral research and statistical analysis. Dr. Belluzzi has 63 peer reviewed publications that include the first demonstration of rewarding effects of enkephalin, the first demonstration of dopamine D1 agonist self-administration, the first study to directly compare the reward value of cocaine and nicotine, and the first demonstration of the enhancement of nicotine self-administration by a tobacco smoke component, acetaldehyde. Dr. Belluzzi has prior experience in the pharmaceutical industry, having served as Head of Basic Research Section in the Department of Psychopharmacology at Wyeth Laboratories (Radnor, PA) and as a Senior Research Scientist at Whitby Research (Irvine, CA)
Frederick J. Ehlert, Ph.D.
Professor of Pharmacology
Dr. Ehlert is internationally known for his development of computational methods to analyze drug interactions with G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). He recently published the book Affinity and Efficacy, the Components of Drug-Receptor Interaction. Dr. Ehlert’s analytical methods provide a means for validating conclusions drawn from docking drug molecules onto active and inactive receptor structures in silico. His approach is useful for quantifying agonist signaling through different pathways (agonist bias) and allosteric modulation of pathway selectivity. Finally, his analysis provides a more useful interpretation of structure-activity relationships. Dr. Ehlert’s lab analyzes models of drug-receptor interactions using a variety of techniques: computer simulation of receptor events, cell culture, second messenger assays, and contractile measurements on isolated smooth muscle from wild type and receptor knockout mice. In particular, Dr. Ehlert has focused on muscarinic receptors and the development of novel subtype-selective irreversible antagonists. Dr. Ehlert received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from UC Irvine. He serves on the editorial board of 3 major international journals and his industry ties include work with Pfizer, Inc.
Kelvin W. Gee, Ph.D.
Professor of Pharmacology
Dr. Gee is a neuropharmacologist with extensive experience in drug discovery and development. Dr. Gee received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from UC Davis. The mission of his lab is to identify and characterize novel allosteric modulatory sites on ligand-gated ion channels, design and synthesize ligands for these sites and evaluate their potential as novel therapeutic agents useful in the treatment of human diseases. He is characterizing novel allosteric modulatory sites on the GABAA receptor complex and the alpha7 nicotinic receptor and studying the behavioral consequences of modulatory site activation/antagonism. Dr. Gee’s pioneering work on the discovery and development of neuroactive steroids and other small molecules as therapeutic agents has resulted in 16 patents and led to his founding of several biopharmaceutical companies to develop his discoveries: CoCensys Inc., Kadmus Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Xytis, Inc. Dr. Gee also served on the scientific advisory boards of several drug development companies, such as Gemin X Biotechnologies Inc. and Anvyl LLC.
Naoto Hoshi, MD., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pharmacology
Dr. Hoshi received his M.D. and Ph.D. from Kanazawa University School of Medicine, Japan. The Hoshi laboratory studies the function and regulation of the M-channel as a model system for understanding how low threshold voltage-gated channels contribute to higher brain functions such as learning and memory and also pathological states such as epilepsy. M-channel modulators have therapeutic potential for controlling pathological neuronal activity. Dr. Hoshi’s detailed analyses of the M-channel complex revealed that the KCNQ2 channel tethers several kinases and protein phosphatases as well as its direct binding to GPCRs. This receptor-ion channel complex is a fundamental regulatory mechanism, which is also important for the heart pacemaker channel, HCN4 channel. Dr. Hoshi recently discovered that the widely used anticonvulsant valproic acid acts by protecting the M-current from neuromodulators. Dr. Hoshi’s studies utilize molecular biology, electrophysiology, live cell FRET imaging and behavioral neuroscience.
Diana N. Krause, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology
Dr. Krause is recognized for her expertise on hormonal regulation of the cerebral circulation, in particular, the influence of estrogen and other sex steroid hormones on vasculature function and disorders such as stroke and headache. Her research group has made pioneering discoveries that give insight into why cerebrovascular physiology and pathology differ between males and females and over the course of the female lifespan, e.g., pre- vs. postmenopause. Dr. Krause is currently collaborating with investigators at the University of Lund, Sweden, on a promising novel treatment for stroke. She earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA and has previous industry experience as Director of Pharmacology for Nelson Research (Irvine, CA). She currently is a consultant for the biotech company Edvince AB.
Qun-Yong Zhou, Ph.D.
Professor of Pharmacology
Dr. Zhou has pioneered the research of prokineticins, a family of novel regulatory peptides that regulate diverse biological processes including gastrointestinal motility, pain perception, tumorigenesis and circadian rhythm. His group has developed potent and selective small molecule prokineticin antagonists with potential as therapeutic drugs for significant human disorders such as cancer, cerebral ischemic stroke, and mood disorders. Multiple approaches are used to elucidate the regulation of prokineticin ligands and receptors, including molecular biology, genetics, electrophysiology, and behavioral pharmacology. Dr. Zhou received a Pharmacy degree from Shanghai Medical University and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Oregon Health Sciences University. He is the scientific founder of the biotech firm Kinexis and collaborates with Merck & Co.