Valentines Provide Unrestricted Gift to Pharmacy School

Funds designated for skills laboratory renovation

OXFORD, Miss. – Jimmie and Carrie Valentine of Ocean Springs have pledged $25,000 in unrestricted funds to the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.

“My wife and I are at a position in life where we wanted to share our financial blessings with the school that gave me an opportunity to acquire the necessary skills to have an exciting career in science,” said Jimmie Valentine, who graduated in 1968 with a doctoral degree in medicinal chemistry.

During Valentine’s tenure at the pharmacy school, he formed strong friendships with faculty and students.

“My late wife, Clarene Valentine, was a research assistant to the late dean Charles Hartman during our graduate days at Ole Miss,” he said. “At that time, there were about 25 graduate students in medicinal chemistry, and we all became great friends and shared many fun times together. Many of those graduate students went on to academic positions all over the United States, as well as key positions in various pharmaceutical companies. We all were well prepared for the positions by the outstanding education and mentoring we received.”

Valentine, who retired in 2008 from the University of Arkansas as professor of pediatrics, pharmacology and myeloma research, is a medical pharmacology and toxicology consultant. He and his wife, Carrie, had a strong desire to spend their retirement years in Mississippi.

“We selected Ocean Springs for our home and have loved the almost five years we have been there,” he said. “There is a strong group of Ole Miss alumni on the coast, and both the chancellor (Dan Jones) and Dean (David D.) Allen make regular trips to visit these alums. In fact, we first met Dean Allen at a noontime luncheon in Pascagoula. We immediately felt a kinship with him and have enjoyed our visits when he comes to the coast.”

Likewise, Allen has enjoyed getting to know the Valentines.

“In addition to being delightful individuals, they are so passionate about helping our school in any way possible,” Allen said. “We are very thankful for their support.”

The Valentines’ gift has been designated to support renovation of the school’s skills laboratory, which will be in use this fall.

“We wanted Dean Allen to have the flexibility to use the funds as he deemed appropriate,” Jimmie Valentine said. “We know the skills-lab renovation has been a project that he saw as being extremely important to the student body. So we are happy if our giving has helped that effort.”

Raina McClure, pharmacy’s development director, emphasized the need for unrestricted gifts.

“Unrestricted gifts are so incredibly important,” McClure said. “These funds are allocated for the most important projects that the pharmacy school is undertaking at the time. We are extremely thankful for the Valentines’ generosity.”

To learn more about ways to support the pharmacy school, contact McClure at 662-915-6967 or rmcclure@olemiss.edu.

Research Program Has Staying Power

UM search for antifungal antibiotics marks 30th year

Alice Clark prepares for a lab experiment (circa 1995).

Clark and Charles Hufford began UM’s search for antifungal antibiotics in 1984.

OXFORD, Miss. – What began in 1984 as a contract to screen compounds for activity against opportunistic infections that threaten the lives of people with suppressed immune systems has become one of the longest continually funded antifungal research programs in the history of the National Institutes of Health.

The program’s principal investigator is the University of Mississippi’s vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, Alice Clark, who first received funding for the work from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, 30 years ago.

At the time, a host of opportunistic infections were ravaging the bodies of people with suppressed immune systems due to AIDS, cancer chemotherapy or immune-suppressing drugs, but treatments were sorely lacking.

With that first NIH-NIAID funding, Clark, co-principal investigator Charles Hufford and others in the university’s School of Pharmacy focused on finding new drugs to treat fungal infections such as systemic candidiasis. Candidiasis is caused by Candida albicans, which produces localized yeast infections (i.e., oral thrush, vaginitis and diaper rash) that are not a problem for people with healthy immune systems. But in people with suppressed immune systems, the organism can invade the whole body and attack the organs.

During the project’s early years, Clark and her team found and patented several compounds that kill or inhibit C. albicans, and the compounds represented totally new and different classes of antifungal antibiotics. That’s because, rather than synthesizing analogs of existing drugs, which were likely to have the same toxicities and resistance problems as the parent drug, the researchers focused on isolating compounds from higher plants – trees, shrubs and flowers – as well as microorganisms, the traditional source of antifungal antibiotics.

Because of such progress, Clark and Hufford received a $1 million contract renewal in 1987 (one of only three awarded nationwide) to continue their work for five more years. Two years later, they received a grant from NIAID for similar work. With Clark as its principal investigator, that grant (RO1-AI-27094) has been renewed four times and been funded with nearly $5.9 million since 1989.

“I believe this is probably the longest antifungal research program in NIH history,” said Hufford, Clark’s spouse and the pharmacy school’s associate dean for research and graduate programs.

“It has been an honor to be supported by NIH, and through NIH by my peers in the scientific community, for 30 years,” Clark said. “I feel extremely fortunate to have had such a long and successful relationship with them. I am also grateful to Chris Lambros, my program officer at NIH, who has been extremely engaged, knowledgeable, helpful and visionary. He has been an incredible resource to my group and to the whole scientific community.”

Today, drugs such as fluconazole and caspofungin are frequently used to treat infections caused by Candida and other fungi (e.g., lung infections caused by Aspergillus and meningitis caused by the yeast Cryptococcus), but resistant strains of these pathogens are diminishing the drugs’ utility and effectiveness. Because of that, Clark and her colleagues are not only evaluating natural products for antifungal activity but also their ability to work in combination with fluconazole and caspofungin to restore their effectiveness.

With the help of pharmacy school research scientists such as Ameeta Agarwal, Xing-Cong Li and Melissa Jacob, Clark’s team has identified a small number of compounds that do just that. Some help keep fluconazole inside fungal cells, where it can do its work, while others prevent fungal cells from repairing the damage to their walls that caspofungin causes.

“Over time, microbes and other pathogens develop resistance, so it is important to continually develop new drugs that kill them or that restore the effectiveness of existing drugs in resistant strains of the pathogens,” Clark said. “We evaluate thousands of samples of plants and microorganisms from all over the world to see if they can do either or both of these things. We then isolate, purify and determine the chemical structure of the individual natural product compound most responsible for the effect and determine its mechanism of action.”

Unravelling just what makes fungal pathogens susceptible, or resistant, to drugs is the key to devising new ways to kill them and treat the infections they cause.

“From that information, we can design new biological tests to help discover other new compounds,” Clark said.

For these particular studies, the researchers use the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, because of its simple genetics and biochemistry, and a host of sophisticated genomic, genetic and proteomic (analysis of structure and function of proteins and/or enzymes) technology.

“We use technology that shows how an organism’s genes respond after exposure to the natural product,” Clark said. “First, we use transcript profiling technology to identify biological pathways that respond to the candidate drug. Once a target pathway is identified, we conduct follow-up studies to pinpoint the precise drug target.”

Those follow-up studies include testing to determine whether mutant strains of yeast that lack those biological pathway genes are more sensitive to the potential drug, or to search for specific enzymes or metabolites in the target pathways, Clark said. Finally, the researchers test the effectiveness of the potential drug against fungal pathogens, using similar approaches to what they use in model organisms.

Restoring the potency of existing antifungal drugs presents multiple advantages, Clark said. “Increasing the intracellular concentration of the primary drug, for example, can lead to shorter durations of therapy, reduced dosages and fewer side effects.”

Although the goal of Clark and her team is to improve the quality of life of millions of people with immune disorders worldwide, their work is a continual cycle of concurrent and interrelated studies.

“Collaboration is the key to success of this project,” Clark said. “The work simply could not be done by any single investigator, and we benefit from collaborations with researchers in other academic institutions, government labs and companies.

“I have had the great privilege of working with many outstanding collaborators throughout my career but none more so than my UM colleagues on this project: Drs. Agarwal, Li and Jacob, who lead our efforts in molecular biology, natural products chemistry and antifungal screening, respectively.”

Pierron Gift Establishes Scholarship for Pharmacy Students

Endowment created in conjunction with alumnus’ 60-year reunion

Pierron family members attend Pharmacy Alumni Weekend.

Pierron family members attend Pharmacy Alumni Weekend.

OXFORD, Miss. – Walter J. Pierron Jr. has a longtime appreciation for the School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi.

“I have many fond memories from the pharmacy school,” said Pierron (BSPh 54), a native of Monroe, Louisiana. “I made a lot of friends with the faculty and students. The university has an atmosphere that is so enjoyable, and that’s one of the things I remember most.”

In honor of that appreciation, Pierron’s daughter and son-in-law recently established a scholarship in his name. Their $25,000 gift created the Walter J. Pierron Jr. Pharmacy Scholarship Endowment for pharmacy students.

Recipients of the Pierron scholarship will be full-time students in their final year of the professional pharmacy program who excel academically, demonstrate qualities of leadership and conduct community service.

Pierron’s daughter, Melanie Pierron Patrick (BBA 83), was thrilled to honor her father.

“Dad has always spoken of his time at Ole Miss as some of the best years of his life,” she said. “He loves young people and has been a mentor to so many pharmacy students.”

Pierron’s love of the pharmacy profession began in high school while working at a local pharmacy. After graduating from Ole Miss, he worked for 45 years as a pharmacist in Louisiana. He also taught at the University of Louisiana at Monroe School of Pharmacy for 14 years. He was president of the Louisiana Pharmacists Association and served on the state’s Board of Pharmacy.

In April, Pierron attended his 60-year class reunion at the UM pharmacy school’s annual Alumni Weekend and was pleased to reconnect with a handful of former classmates.

“We’ve been friends a long time, and we stayed in touch over the years – mainly through the pharmacy school,” he said. “I was in the Air Force with Clovis Burch (BSPh 54). We go way back.”

David D. Allen, the pharmacy school’s dean, said he has enjoyed phone conversations with Pierron and was “delighted to finally meet him in person” at the event.

“It’s obvious that he has a genuine passion for the University of Mississippi and our school,” Allen said. “I am so thankful for his family’s generous gift. Education is our top priority, and this scholarship will provide many new opportunities for pharmacy students.”

William Patrick, Pierron’s son-in-law, said that Pierron was “very supportive” of students.

“Since I’ve known him, he has been interested in pharmacy and particularly pharmacy students,” Patrick said. “He’s also been interested in continuing education and other matters related to pharmacy. We wanted to do something in his honor, and we thought this would be an appropriate way to do that.”

For Pierron, it was an emotional gift.

“I’ve always been involved in academics because students are so important,” he said. “This scholarship means a lot to me. The university does a great job, and it’s always been a place I’ve been proud of. It just does something to you.”

To contribute to the Walter J. Pierron Jr. Pharmacy Scholarship Endowment, mail a check made payable to the University of Mississippi Foundation with the fund noted in the memo line to the UM Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, MS 38677. Online gifts can be made at http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift. For more information, contact Raina McClure, director of development, at 662-915-6967 or rmcclure@olemiss.edu.

UM Pharmacy School Introduces New Structure

Departments reorganized to support renowned research enterprise

The Thad Cochran Research Center anchors the pharmacy school's academic and research enterprise.

The Thad Cochran Research Center anchors the pharmacy school’s academic and research enterprise.

OXFORD, Miss. – A process to evaluate research at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has come full circle with a reorganization of the school’s departments.

The school recently changed from six departments to four.

“The School of Pharmacy is continually finding ways in which we can better support our world-renowned research enterprise,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “We discovered that reorganizing was the perfect way to do just that. I applaud our faculty members for their efforts in making this vision a reality.”

The departments of Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacognosy and Pharmacology, as well as the environmental toxicology research program, have been combined to form the Department of BioMolecular Sciences. Despite this change, students can still pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in medicinal chemistry, pharmacognosy, pharmacology and environmental toxicology.

The new department’s core mission is to educate pharmacists and scientists at the undergraduate, professional, graduate and postdoctoral levels to deliver health care and conduct research in basic, applied and translational pharmaceutical sciences in order to improve human health.

Also, the Department of Pharmaceutics was renamed the Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery. The departments of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmacy Administration remain unchanged.

In 2012, the school completed a research visioning process to drive research collaboration and focus. The process identified four target areas of research: cancer, cardiometabolic disorders, neuroscience/drugs of abuse and infectious diseases.

Following input from consultants and faculty members, a need was identified for departments that better support those research areas. A School of Pharmacy Reorganization Committee was appointed to recommend reorganization models. The committee was composed of pharmacy faculty members and administrators.

“I am so pleased with the committee’s work,” Allen said. “They did a great job of evaluating our current structure and providing input on how we could improve.”

The reorganization provides opportunities to advance the school’s teaching and research missions, said Stephen Cutler, chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences.

“This new design will allow us to map our professional curriculum beginning with anatomy/physiology through pathophysiology, medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, thus developing a solid foundation for pharmacy students,” Cutler said. “The graduate program will be strengthened through the integration of the basic science disciplines; pharmacology students will be learning side-by-side with medicinal and natural products chemists.

“Our research mission will be strengthened as we leverage the resources among the former departments into one cohesive unit. We are already beginning to see new collaborations with this restructure.”

The new name helps the public understand more about the faculty’s work, said Mike Repka, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery.

“Though pharmaceutics somewhat implies drug delivery, our department has developed a unique specialty in that area,” Repka said. “Many of our faculty members are researching various delivery strategies for the skin, eye and oral mucosa, including novel technology associated with these targets. I’m pleased that we are able to articulate that to the public through our new name.”

Pharmacy School Competes in National Medication Adherence Challenge

Students and faculty provide counseling at free clinic, health fair

Pharmacy students, faculty and residents volunteered at the Jackson Free Clinic every Saturday in February.

Pharmacy students, faculty and residents volunteered at the Jackson Free Clinic every Saturday in February.

OXFORD, Miss. – A student-developed awareness campaign at the Jackson Free Clinic aimed at educating patients on the importance of taking medication as prescribed has won an award as part of a national competition.

The Script Your Future Medication Adherence Team Challenge, sponsored by the National Consumers League, challenges students in health professions to use creative campaigns to promote medication adherence in their communities. The School of Pharmacy won a Chronic Condition Outreach Award for its 2013 campaign.

“This year, I wanted a way to have our students partner with several other schools at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, as one of the challenge’s focuses is to be interprofessional,” said Katie McClendon, interim assistant dean for student services on the school’s Jackson campus. “Given the already existing work at the Jackson Free Clinic and the interprofessional atmosphere there, I thought it would be a good fit.”

The Jackson Free Clinic is run by students at UMMC and volunteer physicians from the community. It provides nonemergency care to individuals in Jackson who cannot otherwise pay for services. The nonprofit’s board is composed of UMMC medical, dental, physical therapy and occupational therapy students, along with a community physician and physician medical director. Pharmacy students will soon join the board.

Every Saturday in February, pharmacy students volunteered at the clinic, working with faculty and residents to counsel patients and increase medication adherence.

“For every patient that we counseled, we would give a Script Your Future wallet card that listed all of (his or her) current medications and included doses, indications and directions,” said Carlos Black, a third-year professional pharmacy student from Louisville. “We kept track of the number of wallet cards distributed to determine how many patients we counseled.”

Besides working at the clinic, the school participated in the Belhaven University Health Fair to provide counseling to college students.

Eighteen pharmacy students counseled 52 patients throughout the month at the Jackson Free Clinic, said Black, who served as student coordinator for the campaign. At Belhaven, seven pharmacy students saw 106 patients.

Thomas Webb, a fourth-year professional pharmacy student from Philadelphia, said that he appreciated the opportunity to work in an interprofessional setting while competing in the adherence challenge.

“The Jackson Free Clinic is really unique in that every student walks away from it gaining something,” Webb said. “Having the ability to work alongside medical students as they review patients with complicated diseases such as diabetes and hypertension can be very rewarding for a pharmacy student.”

The school submitted two applications for Script Your Future awards at the close of the competition. The results of the challenge will be announced this summer.

Pharmacy School Names Distinguished Teaching Scholars

Faculty recognized for teaching excellence and dedication to student success

The School of Pharmacy's new Distinguished Teaching Scholars are (from left) Erin Holmes, Daniel Riche and Kristine Willett.

The School of Pharmacy’s new Distinguished Teaching Scholars are (from left) Erin Holmes, Daniel Riche and Kristine Willett.

OXFORD, Miss. – Three faculty members in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy have been honored by its Distinguished Teaching Scholars Program, which recognizes excellence in teaching and dedication to student achievement.

Erin Holmes, assistant professor of pharmacy administration; Daniel Riche, associate professor of pharmacy practice and medicine; and Kristine Willett, professor of pharmacology, have been named the school’s new Distinguished Teaching Scholars.

“We are so pleased to honor these outstanding faculty members for their contributions to teaching excellence,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “They are innovative and passionate in the classroom, and truly care about the success of our students. Our students are our top priority, so it is important that we honor those who go above and beyond to provide superb learning experiences for them.”

Established in 2005, the Distinguished Teaching Scholars Program is partially funded through proceeds from the estate of Thelma H. Cernigilia and members of the Galen Order. Recipients are nominated for the awards, and a committee evaluates the nominees and makes a recommendation to the dean.

Recipients of the awards serve a three-year term and receive an annual stipend.

Holmes teaches pharmacy law, management and personal finance for second-year professional, or PY2, pharmacy students and pharmaceutical and health care policy for graduate students. She is a member of the university’s Council on Community Engagement, which fosters community engagement among university stakeholders, and chairs the pharmacy school’s curriculum committee.

She also serves on the editorial advisory boards for the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association and Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. She received the School of Pharmacy’s 2013 Faculty Service Award and was twice selected by PY2 students as their Teacher of the Year.

Riche teaches pharmacotherapy for PY3 and PY4 professional students on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus, where he serves as clinical coordinator of the Cardiometabolic Clinic. He was named a UM Faculty Research Program Fellow in 2008 and the New Clinical Practitioner of the Year by the American College of Clinical Pharmacy in 2011.

He served as co-editor of the 11th edition of Clinical Drug Data and received the School of Pharmacy’s Faculty Instructional Innovation in Teaching Award in 2011. In 2009, Riche and his mentee, Joshua Swan (PharmD 09), received the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Foundation Student Research Award, and UM’s graduating Doctor of Pharmacy class selected Riche as its Clinical Science Teacher of the Year.

Willett teaches introductory toxicology for undergraduate pharmacy students and honors courses for freshmen in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She also teaches graduate-level general principles of pharmacology and toxicology courses.

Her research includes National Institutes of Health-funded studies on the toxic effects of environmental chemicals in developing and adult organisms. She is on the editorial boards of Toxicological Sciences and Aquatic Toxicology and is a member of the Society of Toxicology. She is vice president of the society’s Molecular and Systems Biology Specialty Section and serves on the society’s undergraduate education subcommittee. She is also a member of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

Pharmacy School Honors Distinguished Alumnus

Syed Abidi honored for professional accomplishments, service

Pharmacy dean David D. Allen (left) and Syed Abidi

Pharmacy dean David D. Allen (left) and Syed Abidi

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy recently honored alumnus Syed Abidi, CEO of Phaharmaceutics International Inc., for his outstanding career and service to the school.

Abidi, who earned a doctoral degree in pharmaceutics in 1980, was presented with the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award April 5 during the school’s annual Alumni Weekend awards banquet.

“I think this award is an honor, and I’m really humbled by accepting it,” Abidi said. “It shows that the university thinks I’ve contributed something to the sciences and to the school.”

After receiving his Ph.D. from Ole Miss, Abidi joined Duquesne University’s School of Pharmacy as an assistant professor of pharmaceutics. He then worked for Schering-Plough as a senior scientist for six years before moving to Applied Analytical Inc. as principal scientist from 1989 to 1990.

“It was always in the back of my mind that one day I would have my own business,” Abidi said. “When I went to AAI, I saw the president of the company had a similar background. I thought that if he could do it, so could I.”

In 1994, Abidi created Pii, which quickly became one of the leading pharmaceutical development companies in the world.

“Pii is recognized as one (of the), if not the most, high-quality pharmaceutical development companies out there,” said Walt Chambliss, UM director of technology management. “I think that’s what Syed set out to do.”

Chambliss first met Abidi when they were both in graduate school at Ole Miss. As a senior graduate student, Abidi served as a mentor to Chambliss.

“I think he’s a prototype of the kind of research scientist that we like to create at Ole Miss,” Chambliss said. “He’s a pharmacist, he’s dedicated to the pharmaceutical sciences and he’s given back to the university in a number of ways.”

Abidi has remained active in the university’s pharmaceutical education programs over the years. His company supports the university’s Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award and sponsors the School of Pharmacy’s Alumni and Friends Luncheon, which is held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

In 2012, Abidi’s company made a gift to the school to support pharmaceutical education for graduate students and to create the Pii Center for Pharmaceutical Technology, a center devoted to research related to hot-melt extrusion and other pharmaceutical-processing technologies.

David D. Allen, the pharmacy school’s dean, presented the award to Abidi at the banquet.

“I was thrilled to honor Dr. Abidi with our Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award,” Allen said. “He is a remarkable individual who has accomplished a great deal over the course of his career. We are grateful for his dedication to our school and pharmaceutics department.”

Two Students Inducted into UM Pharmacy Hall of Fame

Honorees selected for scholastic and professional contributions

ken

Andy Kennedy

OXFORD, Miss. – Two Doctor of Pharmacy graduates at the University of Mississippi were inducted into the School of Pharmacy Hall of Fame during spring commencement ceremonies.

Geremy Carpenter of Jackson and Michael “Andy” Kennedy of Quitman were selected by their classmates for their scholastic and professional contributions to the school.

Carpenter was president of the university’s graduating Pharm.D. class for the past three years.

“Geremy is one of the most selfless people I have ever met,” said Kara Schaller, a classmate from Ridgeland. “He has worked tirelessly as class president to make sure that our class needs were met. He will do anything for anyone and consistently sacrifices himself for the well-being of others.”

Another classmate, Katie Langley of Flowood, had similar things to say about Carpenter, but added,

HOFCarpenter, Geremy

Geremy Carpenter

“He is one of those people who everyone knows they can call on anytime they are in need. I feel honored to call myself his friend and colleague.”

Kennedy is the recipient of several awards for outstanding academic achievement.

“Andy has proven himself to be one of the most intelligent members of our class,” Carpenter said. “He is always sincere and willing to explain lecture material to us without expecting anything in return. Our class has so much respect for Andy that during academically challenging times, we confided in him to find a sense of relief.”

Carpenter is moving to New York City to begin a residency at Lenox Hill Hospital, and Kennedy is working as an information technology pharmacist at South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel.

To be inducted into the Hall of Fame, students must demonstrate exemplary leadership skills, said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean.

“Geremy and Andy have both been academic leaders and engaged in numerous service projects,” Allen said. “We will miss them both, but we look forward to seeing them apply their considerable leadership and intellectual skills within the profession.”

NCNPR Assistant Director Invited to Prestigious Seminar Series

Ikhlas Khan gives lecture on traditional medicine at South African university

Ikhlas Khan, assistant director of the Natural Center for Natural Products Research, delivers a seminar at Tshwane University in South Africa.

Ikhlas Khan, assistant director of the Natural Center for Natural Products Research, delivers a seminar at Tshwane University in South Africa.

OXFORD, Miss – Ikhlas Khan, assistant director of the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, recently delivered an invited lecture on traditional medicine and botanicals at a South African university.

“It’s an honor to be selected for the Vice-Chancellor’s Seminar Series at Tshwane University of Technology,” Khan said. “It’s a very prestigious event, and they select only one speaker each year.”

The seminar series brings leading international scholars to Tshwane University for knowledge sharing, promotion of scholarship and intellectual engagement.

The title of Khan’s lecture was “Multidisciplinary Approaches in Assuring the Quality, Safety and Efficacy of Traditional Medicines/Botanicals.”

“My lecture focused on the need for more basic science in the development of traditional medicines,” Khan said. “Africa has its own system of healers and commonly used medicine, but products based on science can be accepted internationally and benefit everyone.”

Traditional medicine has benefits that can be amplified with scientific research, he said.

“Those who practice traditional medicine have something valuable and, by interfacing with the scientific community, they can further develop these products to benefit the rest of the world,” he said. “It requires multidisciplinary efforts.”

Khan said he hopes to use this opportunity to “develop collaborations that could strengthen our program and train more scientists in the area of natural products.”

Larry Walker, NCNPR director, applauds Khan’s participation in the seminar series.

“This award lectureship is a great testimony to Dr. Khan’s accomplishments in the field and the recognition that his research program here at Ole Miss is drawing around the world,” Walker said.

Program Coordinator Works Year-Round on Annual Botanicals Conference

Event draws participants from around the globe

Jennifer Taylor

Jennifer Taylor

OXFORD, Miss. – If the 13th annual International Conference on the Science of Botanicals is as successfully staged as the previous 12, it will be due, in large measure, to the efforts of Jennifer S. Taylor, program coordinator in the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.

Putting the ICSB together “is a huge undertaking,” said Ikhlas Khan, NCNPR’s assistant director and director of its FDA (Food and Drug Administration) Center for Excellence in Botanicals.

“It’s sort of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with thousands of pieces,” he said. “Jennifer makes sure that, in the end, all those pieces fit together perfectly to ensure that everything comes off without a hitch.”

The conference has drawn as many as 250 participants from around the world to the Oxford Conference Center to discuss pressing topics affecting the botanical dietary supplement industry and the people who consume the supplements. Taylor’s job is to prepare year-round for each upcoming conference.

“I am the ‘event coordinator,’ ‘travel coordinator,’ ‘administrative coordinator’ and ‘speaker coordinator’ all rolled into one,” Taylor said. “My role is pretty intense.”

Taylor arranges venues and menus for the conference’s various activities and ensures that whoever needs to get paid for them receives payment. She manages hotel arrangements and shuttle services for conference participants and even helps some of them solve their flight issues. She also handles invitations and other correspondence with conference speakers and manages their itineraries and travel reimbursements.

During the actual event, she deals with the registration, check-in and other problems that invariably arise whenever and wherever large numbers of people gather for a series of carefully orchestrated events.

“Her job is like herding stray cats, but somehow she does it very well,” said Larry Walker, NCNPR director. “She manages to assist many of our NCNPR staff as well as many of our conference participants.”

This year, Taylor’s workload is even more intense because NCNPR also is hosting the American Society of Pharmacognosy’s annual meeting Aug. 2-4.

“We will be challenged this year because the ASP event is much larger than our ICSB,” she said. “It averages 500 attendees, but we have an amazing group of people at NCNPR, and everyone will pull together to really make this year a huge success.”

Topics for this year’s April 15-17 ICSB conference include various approaches for post-market surveillance, risk and safety assessment, and adverse event reporting for botanical dietary supplements and other natural products. To ensure that regulatory and manufacturing perspectives are shared, the program includes presentations from members of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, major trade associations and industry representatives, Taylor said.

The ASP meeting will explore natural products and their impact on human health, agriculture and the environment.

“Participants will review, discuss and explore the confluence of natural products research,” Taylor said. “Topics include past achievements, current status and future prospects in natural products discovery.”

While in the midst of finalizing agendas and plans for the ICSB event and beginning similar work on the ASP meeting, Taylor also is serving as Khan’s administrative assistant.

“He oversees approximately 30 people at any given time, so I assist them, as well as him, with any clerical needs they have, such as travel, purchasing, correspondence, payroll, reimbursements, etc.,” she said.

A Myrtle native, Taylor joined the NCNPR staff in fall 2006.

“I worked for Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly at the NIDA Marijuana Project,” she said. “At the NIDA project, I was a senior secretary working with project coordinator Linda Spears. She taught me a lot about the project and my job duties. A lot of my success should be credited to her.”

Taylor began working for Khan in summer 2010.

“That’s when I became a program coordinator,” she said. “I still do the clerical jobs of a senior secretary, but I help coordinate an international conference too. It takes a lot of us working together to be successful.”

Working with all those people, as well as being allowed to grow in work-related knowledge and responsibilities, are the aspects of the job that Taylor likes most.

“There are so many wonderful individuals that I get the pleasure of interacting with every day,” she said. “Even though our group tends to change frequently with visiting scholars and postdocs coming and going, we are like an enormous family. When someone leaves, we try to keep in touch with (him or her).

“I have been fortunate to work for two amazing bosses, Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly and Dr. Ikhlas Khan. They both have inspired me to be the best at what I do.”

The annual ICSB is supported by a cooperative agreement between the NCNPR and the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.