Frei Leads Translational Science Program

Dr. Chris Frei photoDr. Christopher Frei, associate professor of pharmacotherapy, has been named director of the Translational Science Ph.D. Program.

Frei, who also heads the Division of Pharmacology within The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy, follows Dr. Michael Lichtenstein as director.  The program draws from the faculty and research resources of The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy, UT San Antonio (UTSA), and UT Health Science Center San Antonio.  These institutions will jointly award the new degree. Also participating but not offering a degree, is the UT School of Public Health, San Antonio Regional Campus.

The program draws students with health professional doctoral degrees or health-related Master’s degrees and trains them to conduct innovative translational research.  The UT program is one of only a handful of such programs in the country with the goal of improving efficiency in the drug development process.

“Our students take part in discussions of new drug development,” Dr. Frei explained, “but they also have the opportunity to hear diverse perspectives from stakeholders in different areas of science.  They learn to work with multiple disciplines.”

Students and their supervising professors, he continued, are forced “out of their silos” to speak with researchers from other disciplines, with a goal of fostering new collaborations to speed up the translation of new discoveries into true gains for human health.

“At the end of the day, this program helps assure that the patient is best served.  It shouldn’t take 15 to 20 years to get a new scientific discovery to the patients who need them,” Frei said.

The program admitted its first class in Fall 2012, and celebrated its first graduate, Dr. Kelly Reveles, in Summer 2014.  Dr. Frei was the supervising professor of the program’s first graduate. The program’s second graduate, Dr. Jay Bucci, completed his degree this summer.

“I am deeply honored to serve the program and its students as program director,” Frei said.  “This program would not be here today if it were not for the vision and tireless efforts of Michael Lichtenstein as program director and Susan Stappenbeck as program coordinator.”

Lichtenstein will continue to serve on the program’s Committee on Graduate Studies, while Stappenbeck continues in her role as program coordinator.

“Graduate students are an integral part of my research and scholarship activities,” Frei said.  “They have so much potential, and this program is an excellent mechanism to help them achieve their full potential, while training to learn a type of science that will help move new discoveries from research environments to people and communities who need them the most.”