VCU creates Center for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Sciences

Four people stand in a row, smiling at the camera.
The center’s two directors, Sandro da Rocha, Ph.D., and Thomas D. Roper, Ph.D., pose with Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering, and Joseph T. DiPiro, Pharm.D., dean of the School of Pharmacy.
By Kendra Gerlach
VCU College of Engineering
(804) 827-0631
kegerlach2@vcu.edu

Virginia Commonwealth University has opened a Center for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Sciences. The new interdisciplinary center, one of few in the country and the only one of its kind in Virginia, is a collaboration between the university’s School of Pharmacy and College of Engineering. It will focus on researching, creating and patenting drug products and pharmaceutical processes that can address future health needs of society.

Pharmaceutical engineering and sciences is a field that covers all aspects of drug product design — from drug discovery and preclinical studies to manufacturing, formulation and packaging — and spans various areas including chemical, mechanical and biomedical engineering as well as pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry and materials science. The field is a key component of the $1.2 trillion pharmaceutical industry.

“This new center brings together not only two schools but many areas of expertise across VCU,” said Joseph T. DiPiro, Pharm.D., dean of the School of Pharmacy and Archie O. McCalley Chair. “Working with researchers and industry partners, VCU’s Center for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Sciences will discover and deliver health products that improve and save lives.”

“VCU’s Center for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Sciences will help address the growing need for a new generation of researchers trained in cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary science and engineering who see the need for a team-based approach to solving challenges related to the design and manufacturing of pharmaceutical products,” said Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., the Alice T. and William H. Goodwin Jr. Dean of the College of Engineering.

The center has four main goals:

  • Facilitate multidisciplinary research and educational and entrepreneurial efforts in the field.
  • Promote a state-of-the-art infrastructure core for the development of pharmaceutical products.
  • Partner with and provide service to industrial and other stakeholders.
  • Serve the community in the region, the commonwealth of Virginia and nationwide.

“The Center for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Sciences will affirm VCU’s place among the nation’s hubs for entrepreneurial research and drug delivery, development and manufacturing,” said Thomas D. Roper, Ph.D., center co-director and a professor of chemical and life science engineering in the College of Engineering.

“By creating a center in which our scholars and experts in various areas can work collaboratively to develop innovative treatments, VCU is putting into action its principles of improving health and investing in research that can make a difference in people’s lives,” said Sandro R.P. da Rocha, Ph.D., co-director of the center and a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy.

Both the School of Pharmacy and the College of Engineering have successful records in research. The College of Engineering recorded $18.2 million in sponsored research in 2018; last year the college received $2.2 million from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to support its Pharmacy on Demand initiative. The School of Pharmacy is No. 15 in the nation for research funding from the National Institutes of Health and brought in $9.85 million in research funding last year.

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