2013 Award In Excellence in Pharmacology/Toxicology

PhRMA Foundation recognizing past awardees that are making a difference

04.19.13 | By Preet Bilinski

Every year, the PhRMA Foundation grants Awards in Excellence to past awardees who are dramatic, living proof that the Foundation program works and makes a difference. These awards are given to scientists who received a Foundation grant at the outset of their careers and went on to distinguish themselves through their scientific and/or academic achievements. We had an opportunity to speak with this year's recipient of the Award in Excellence in Pharmacology/Toxicology, William B. Campbell, PhD.

Dr. Campbell's interest in science began in high school, thanks to an outstanding chemistry teacher that inspired him. That led to him working in the local pharmacy over the summer. The pharmacist was a family friend and he would discuss the drugs, how they act and their therapeutic uses. This ultimately affected Dr. Campbell's decision to go to pharmacy school at the University of Texas at Austin. There he became involved in the undergraduate research and found it be exciting, challenging and always posed new questions. As a result, he was hooked on the research and choose to continue on to graduate school.

He attended the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and was in the clinical pharmacology division of the Department of Pharmacology. The program was directed by William A. Pettinger, who was trained by Dr. John Oates, one of the fathers of clinical pharmacology in the US.  Dr. Pettinger was supportive and encouraging, an insightful scientist and created an exciting environment for research. Additionally D. Craig Brater and Robert M. Graham were other assistant professors in the division.  Dr. Brater is now the Dean of the College of Medicine at IUPUI and Dr. Graham is the director of the Chang Cardiovascular Institute in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Campbell was fortunate to be in the company of such colleagues, who have had outstanding research and administrative careers in their own right. Their division at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School was involved in translational research 30 years before it was the trend. 

In his first year on the faculty, he applied for a PhRMA starter grant.  That was the first grant he received and it provided flexible funds that could be used to buy key pieces of equipment and to purchase needed supplies.  This was critical in establishing a research program and a clear and focused research direction.  The award provided him two years of support, that provided data that was leveraged the following year for his first NIH grant.

“The jump start to my research from PhRMA, is greatly appreciated.” said Dr. Campbell. “The Award provided funding at a critical time when I was just starting out as an assistant professor.  It provided data for an independent research article as well as key data for my first NIH grant and an NIH Research Career Development Award.  I have been continuously funded by NIH ever since, 34 years and counting.”

There are also some aspects of the early PhRMA grant that are not related to the money. It is important to have your research ideas reviewed by an independent group of experts and determined to be of merit.  This builds confidence early in a career and is a major source of encouragement, Dr. Campbell tell us.

The starter awards were important to developing the careers of pharmacologists/toxicologists in the 1970s but are more important today. Research support from NIH is at the lowest point.  We cannot afford to lose the next generation of scientists, pharmacologists and toxicologists. Universities, the pharmaceutical industry, patients and the U.S. need these scientists to provide new insights into disease and find new therapeutic agents.  The PhRMA grants play a more critical role in developing careers today than ever before.

"The PhRMA Foundation is proud of Dr. Campbell’s many accomplishments including his more than three decades of continuous support from NIH. He has guided numerous graduate students over the years and continues to educate the next generation of scientists, we view him as an ideal recipient of our most prestigious award." said Eileen Cannon, the Executive Director of the PhRMA Foundation. "The Foundation is proud to have been of assistance to him at the beginning of his outstanding career. He exemplifies the very best in his field. What he has achieved makes it easier to appreciate the importance of providing the same kind of support to those who follow in his footsteps."

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