FDA Awards UAMS College of Public Health $1.2 Million to Improve Drug Safety Testing

By Liz Caldwell

Alison Harrill, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at UAMS, leads a project entitled “The Diversity Outbred: A tool to improve preclinical safety testing and pharmacogenomics analysis.”

Different people respond in different ways to the same dose of a given drug. In recent years, there have been fewer drugs getting approved for use, but the spending has increased, costing more than $1 billion to get a drug on the market, largely due to safety concerns, Harrill said. This study will help predict which drugs carry a safety risk early in development before they reach the market. Harrill hopes that through this research drugs can move more quickly to market so people can get needed medication sooner.

By identifying a drug’s reaction with specific gene mutations, the research can improve the understanding and prediction of adverse drug and chemical reactions in humans. It will allow medicine to be personalized to know what works with a person’s specific DNA.

Gary Churchill, Ph.D., professor at The Jackson Laboratory, has been a key collaborator with Harrill.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,890 students and 782 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com.