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Pharmaceutical sciences research in focus

The breadth and depth of Northeastern’s pharmaceutical sciences research was on display Friday at a daylong symposium that highlighted faculty and students’ innovative work and honored the annual event’s founder, professor Richard Deth, who is retiring after 38 years at the university.

Throughout the day, faculty and students presented their research at the Pharmaceutical Sciences 2014 Research Showcase, held at 140 The Fenway.

“Thank you for all that you do to advance science,” Jack Reynolds, dean of the School of Pharmacy, told the presenters. “This brings such great recognition to what you do and what’s going on in your labs, the departments, schools, and the college and university. It’s this kind of scholarship, experimental work, and research that brings great distinction to our university.”

Among the faculty presenters were professor Barbara Waszczak, whose research focuses on the neurology of psychiatric diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, including the development of a method for delivering Parkinson’s disease drugs through the nose; assistant professor Tania Konry, who is developing a broad-based platform for diagnosing and monitoring a variety of diseases, from diabetes to certain types of cancer; and assistant professor Ganesh Thakur, who is working to create safer, more effective drugs analogous to tetrahydrocannabinoid, or THC, a compound found in marijuana.

A midday awards ceremony recognized students who presented their research at a poster session, as well as doctoral student Michael Johnson, who received the John L. Neumeyer Research Achievement Award. The award, which is named after the Matthews Distinguished Professor in Chemistry emeritus, was established in 1992 and is presented annually to a student in pharmaceutical sciences for his or her achievements and whose work has great future promise.

Johnson’s research involves a comprehensive study of endocannabinoid metabolizing enzymes—including a potential biomarker for breast cancer—and the development of a novel, therapeutic nanoplatform that targets these proteins. This work, he said, sheds light on a key regulatory pathway involved in breast cancer progression as well as other disease states and will provide a novel, pharmacologic intervention aimed at better diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Professor Richard Deth, who is retiring after 38 years, was honored for his career achievements, mentorship, and service to the university. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Professor Richard Deth, who is retiring after 38 years, was honored for his career achievements, mentorship, and service to the university. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Reflections on and nods to Deth’s contributions to the field came throughout the day, which culminated in a retirement celebration in his honor attended by faculty, students, staff, family, friends, and alumni. Speakers lauded Deth for his research achievements, mentorship of faculty and students, and service to the university. Among them was Mansoor Amiji, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, who thanked Deth for his guidance and scholarship both when Amiji was an undergraduate student at Northeastern and over the past 21 years when the two have been faculty colleagues.

Congratulatory letters to Deth from Neumeyer and President Joseph E. Aoun were also read at the ceremony.

Deth’s distinguished academic career includes serving as the director of the Pharmacy Program and chairman of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. His research focuses on the causes and potential treatments for a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions.

Students and alumni have started a grassroots initiative to name a Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Program Fund in Deth’s honor. Anyone interested in information on contributing to the fund may contact Jennifer Trapp at 617.373.8831 or j.trapp@neu.edu.