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Sackler School to introduce new master’s program

Published: Friday, December 7, 2012

Updated: Friday, December 7, 2012 00:12



The Sackler School’s pharmacology and drug development program begins next year.


Tufts’ Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences this semester approved Boston’s first two-year pharmacology and drug development Master of Science program. 

“There is a need for this type of training, and not many academic institutions offer it,” Emmanuel Pothos, program director and associate professor of molecular physiology and pharmacology, said.

Between three to 10 students will compose the program’s first class next year, and applications for the program will close Dec. 15, according to David Greenblatt, admissions director and professor of molecular physiology and pharmacology. 

Accepted students will begin their graduate study with the program’s core course, Translational Pharmacology, Pothos said. In their second year, students will focus on their research.

“The industry still depends on these people,” Pothos said. “They are like the driving engine of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Previously, the Sackler School reserved pharmacology master’s degrees for Ph.D candidates who decided not to write a dissertation once their program began, Greenblatt said.  

The Sackler School’s established international reputation surrounding drug development gives this program a competitive advantage in attracting students from the United States and abroad, according to Martin Beinborn, assistant professor of medicine and co-director of the Molecular Pharmacology Research Center.

“It will be good for the university to leverage the existing expertise in teaching toward an additional audience,” Beinborn said. “I think our program might be more appealing to many people.”

The program will also increase income for the Sackler School, raising the budgets of its existing research laboratories, Pothos said.

Investigations into the viability of this master’s program began two years ago, according to Pothos. Greenblatt said that the program leaders have surveyed the pharmacology marketplace’s needs and wants. 

“We think that it answers not only a market need, but a need for training research scientists for the industry,” Pothos said. 

For example, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has been increasing the funds it allocates to translational science in drug development, Beinborn said.

“Scientific funding in general has become more difficult, but, there is new funding in these areas,” he said. “It’s a good idea for Tufts to take advantage of that.”

Pothos cited a demand in the pharmaceutical industry for master’s degrees due to their scarcity. The program will improve the competitiveness of its graduates for jobs in the pharmacology industry without requiring as much time to complete a doctorate degree, he said.

“I think it’s really a great opportunity for the university as a whole to have a foot in the door and may actually forge more connections with the industry,” Beinborn said.

The program will also suit candidates who are unsure if they would like to pursue a master’s or doctorate degree, Pothos said. In the second year, the master’s candidates will be able to apply to the Sackler School’s doctorate program in pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, which typically takes from four to six years to complete, Pothos said. 

Master’s students will participate in the same journal clubs and seminars as the doctorate candidates, and they will do their laboratory rotations together, according to Pothos

“We have the lab space and the labs available to train the students,” Pothos said.

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