School of Pharmacy Enters Education Collaboration with Millennium Health

Leading health solutions company will support genotyping services for students in the School’s advanced pharmacogenomics course.

By Malissa Carroll
October 29, 2015

The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy has entered into a new education collaboration with Millennium Health, a leading health solutions company based in San Diego, Calif., that strives to deliver timely, accurate, and clinically actionable information to inform the right treatment decisions for each patient at the right time. Through this new collaboration – made possible in part by School of Pharmacy alumna, Naissan Hussainzada, PhD ’09, who currently serves as director of clinical strategy for pharmacogenetics testing and principal investigator for Millennium Health – the company will provide genotype tests for third-year student pharmacists in the School’s advanced pharmacogenomics elective course for the next five years.

“The School of Pharmacy strives to inspire excellence in our students through our contemporary curriculum, innovative education experiences, and strategic professional relationships,” says Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FCP, FAAPS, dean and professor of the School and executive director of University regional partnerships. “The field of pharmacogenomics has received increased attention in recent years for its potential to help health care professionals develop safer, more effective therapies tailored to the unique needs of the individual patient. Our new collaboration with Millennium Health ensures that students in our advanced pharmacogenomics course continue to have access to the resources and tools that they need to remain at the top of this cutting-edge field.”

Pharmacogenomics examines how a patient’s genotype (genetics) affects his or her response to medications. The advanced pharmacogenomics course at the School of Pharmacy is taught in collaboration with faculty from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and experts from several government agencies and pharmaceutical companies. It offers a “bench-to-bedside” overview of pharmacogenomics and provides students with an opportunity to submit a sample of their DNA for genotyping tests that examine genes encoding a spectrum of proteins involved in drug response, including drug metabolizing enzymes and drug receptors. The results of these tests offer insight into how an individual will metabolize or respond to certain medications, but do not provide any information about whether an individual is at risk for developing certain genetic diseases.

In addition, as part of the course, students have access to a genetic counselor who can address questions about their test results as well as have the option to complete their coursework using a non-identified sample from a database if they choose not to submit their own sample. “The opportunity for students to better understand how their bodies are likely to respond to certain medications is invaluable to their development as future pharmacists. However, this experience comes at a substantial expense,” notes Hongbing Wang, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSC) and course manager for the School’s advanced pharmacogenomics course.

Hussainzada learned about the School’s need for support for genotyping services in its advanced pharmacogenomics elective course through a conversation with Wang. She developed the proposal for an education collaboration agreement between Millennium Health and the School of Pharmacy.

“After my conversation with Dr. Wang, it became evident that there were some potential synergies between my alma mater and my current employer,” says Hussainzada. “A recent call to action has emphasized the importance of incorporating education about pharmacogenomics into the curricula for all future clinicians, including pharmacists, to ensure that the next generation of health care professionals is prepared to leverage and utilize this innovative technology. Millennium Health is committed to advancing education and awareness about innovative health solutions to help manage patients with complex health conditions. Our support through this new collaboration will ensure that students at the School of Pharmacy are equipped with the education and experience they will need to integrate this practice, which is quickly becoming an important part of routine health care, into their future careers.”

“Millennium Health’s willingness to support genotyping services for students in the School’s advanced pharmacogenomics course ensures that our students continue to have access to a key resource that will shape their development as practicing pharmacists in innumerable ways,” adds Wang. “In addition, thanks to the company’s generous support, the School now has the opportunity to explore even more options to bring this important experience to other students across the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program.”

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