department of pharmacology

Molecular Therapeutics Training Program (MTTP)

The Molecular Therapeutics Training Program (MTTP) provides interdisciplinary doctoral training for promising candidates who intend to pursue research careers in either the basic or clinical science disciplines in a variety of settings. The ultimate degree granted through this program is a Ph.D. in Pharmacology. Pharmacology is a science that embodies the discovery and understanding of agents that modify physiological processes for the benefit of the host organism. Most of the research in this discipline has classically involved characterization of existing therapeutic agents with respect to their chemical structure, therapeutic and toxic effects, and their mechanism(s) of action and biodisposition. New drugs have been discovered largely by random screening or by chemical modification of existing agents.

Advances not only in classical pharmacology but also in molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, immunology and macromolecular chemistry empower the modern pharmacologist to utilize multiple approaches for the design, delivery and understanding of novel therapeutic agents. These include, for example, recombinant gene products, receptor-targeted compounds and genetic agents. The modern pharmacologist has the ability to play a pioneering role in both the design and understanding of totally new classes of therapeutic agents. In addition to the basic core facts and principles, a student's ability to think in global terms and use all of the vast technological armamentarium now available will be critical to career development. Modern students of pharmacology are expected to develop a forward-looking vision of pharmacological research as it will develop and be practiced over the next 20-30 years.

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The MTTP curriculum is designed to stimulate students to use multiple, and often simultaneous, approaches to general biological, and specific pharmacological, problems. Particular emphasis is placed on molecular and biotechnological approaches. It is important that Ph.D. students have a sufficient grounding in classical pharmacological principles and therapeutics to understand the broader clinical application of drugs. However, the ultimate measure of a pharmacologist is the ability to identify, within the context of a biological problem, the potential for developing new therapeutic strategies. Fundamentally, the approach is an active one, i.e., "how can the data, biological system, or technology be used to design new therapeutic approaches to pathophysiological problems?"

Students seeking the Ph.D. in Pharmacology usually are admitted through two matriculation routes:

  1. Through the collective Biomedical Sciences Training Program (BSTP) which is a common core program for first year graduate students in the biomedical sciences, students in the BSTP program follow a combined first year sequence of course work that involves a Coordinated Curriculum in Cell and Molecular Biology. In addition, the first semester includes three research rotations that allow students to sample various areas of research and to become familiar with faculty members and their laboratories. The first research rotation begins July 1, permitting the student an intensive two-month laboratory experience prior to the beginning of course work. Selection of a specific training program (e.g. Pharmacology and the MTTP) and thesis advisor is made by the end of the fall semester of the first year. Those students selecting the MTTP then begin advanced level courses in Pharmacology at the beginning of their second year.
  2. By direct admission to the Molecular Therapeutic Training Program (MTTP). These students generally have a predefined interest in Pharmacology and are admitted directly into the Department of Pharmacology to begin the MTTP at the beginning of their first year of graduate studies. These students rotate in 3 of 33 training faculty laboratories affiliated with the MTTP and they choose a mentor in the middle of the spring semester of their first year. By direct admission into the program, they can also begin advanced Pharacology courses within their first year.

A primary goal of the MTTP graduate education is to help students gain a critical approach to scientific research. Reaching this goal requires the development of students' ability to recognize excellent scientific investigation and nurture a critical view in the evaluation of scientific publications. Students will learn to read and question scientific papers in a critical manner and to ask whether conclusions are supported by data, and whether the data are appropriately determined. They will also learn to derive new hypotheses from data and conclusions and to logically design experiments. To achieve these goals, the MTTP minimizes lectures and maximizes the student's exposure to the primary scientific literature. This occurs largely through assignment of individual scientific articles, coupled to oral presentations encompassing methods, results and interpretations.

MTTP students also complete an innovative oral preliminary examination as well as the development of NIH-style research proposals. The Ph.D. degree is awarded for completion of an original dissertation project parts of which are published in premier scientific journals. The overall program takes four to six years to complete.

A Ph.D. graduate of the Pharmacological Sciences Program will possess a keen sense of independent scientific investigation as well as a perspective on the physiological and therapeutic relevance of basic science. This combination makes alumni of the program well-suited and attractive candidates for career development in academic science as well as the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

All students matriculating in the MTTP receive a full tuition and fees scholarship along with student health benefits and a monthly stipend for living expenses that exceeds current NIH guidelines. Selection for admission is based on transcripts of grades in a baccalaureate degree program, letters of recommendation, results of the Graduate Record Examinations, and prior research experience.

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Further information about the Molecular Therapeutics Training Program can be obtained from the Admissions Coordinator:

Diane Dowd, PhD
Department of Pharmacology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University
10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-4965
dxd57@case.edu
Phone: 216-368-4617
Fax: 216-368-1300