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In the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco we are looking at science problems with fresh eyes and from new perspectives to reveal more quickly the biological reasons that support health and give rise to disease, and to develop new and effective ways of diagnosing disease and of treating disease with medicines and medical devices.

New Teams

Our department was created in 2009 with the knowledge that we could more quickly realize our aims by bringing together scientists whose expertise is building and computing, and scientists who are experts in the pharmaceutical sciences and genetics.

Through combinations such as these, we are improving our understanding of the underlying biology that supports health and the alterations that give rise to specific diseases. We are better able to understand the vast amount of data now available about the human genome. We are engineering biological systems and devices. We are improving clinical trial design and analysis. The end results are better medicines and medical devices that lead to improved health. In particular, our science will help make it possible to personalize medicines to individual patients and develop new approaches to monitor whether a therapy is working as expected or whether an alternative strategy should be considered.

New Approaches Required

Our work is timely. The process of developing and evaluating potential medicines and medical devices through the point they are approved for use in patients is slow, inefficient, expensive, and unproductive. Today's medicines largely target the average person, and are distributed throughout the entire body, not just where they are needed. The medicines and medical devices we foresee are better described as intelligent therapeutics.

  • Imagine a cancer therapy, cloaked in a special chemical shield that targets specific cells and releases its agent inside only those cells, rather than everywhere in the body. As a result, the treatment goes only to the area where it is needed, and unnecessary side effects caused by wider distribution in the body are eliminated.
  • Imagine small, implantable devices that monitor changes in biology. These devices allow us to track precisely the progress of certain diseases and adjust precisely specific treatments for individual patients for best results.
  • Imagine knowing the genetic factors that affect a patient's individual response to a certain medicine. This makes it possible to ensure that individual patients are treated with products that will be effective.

Teaching for Tomorrow, Extending Our Science

Our faculty is also preparing a new generation of scientists and healthcare providers to be better able to discover and treat the underlying causes of human disease. We are training PhD graduate students who will be tomorrow's science leaders, and providing PharmD and MD professional students with the exceptional science foundation they need to deliver increasingly complicated therapeutics to their patients. At the same time, we are working with industry and government leaders in the U.S. and beyond to extend our expertise and work together where once we worked apart.

We believe that our approach to science and teaching is key to a healthier world.

Image credit: all images © majedphoto.com except spine: Shuvo Roy, medicine cabinet: © David Powers, Liverpool Street station crowd blur: Flickr/David Sim, victoriapeckham, pharmacogenomics: Deanna Kroetz, therapeutic bioengineering: Shuvo Roy, computational and systems biology composite: UC Regents, cellular and molecular engineering: Sarah Nelson.