Pharmacology Courses

Core Courses

The Pharmacology courses are designed to give students a rigorous understanding of the principles of pharmacology in several contexts, ranging from the fundamentals of chemistry and biochemistry to the biodisposition and actions of drugs in humans in the context of major diseases. 

Principles of Pharmacology I

The Molecular Basis of Therapeutics (PHRM 401).  This core course focuses on the chemical and biochemical properties of therapeutic agents and molecular mechanisms of therapeutic action, including kinetic and thermodynamic principles of enzyme catalysis and drug-receptor interactions. Fundamental principles of pharmacokinetics, including the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drugs are discussed, including mathematical concepts needed to understand the appropriate administration of drugs. This is a team-coordinated course with a minimum amount of lectures. Student-directed learning experiences are emphasized, including study question discussions, problem-solving, and primary literature presentations. A two-part laboratory exercise introduces experimental methodologies widely applied during the study of molecular interactions between therapeutic agents and enzymes/receptor targets, reinforcing fundamental principles of drug action. This 3-credit hour course meets 3 hours per week during the spring semester of year 1. Course Director: Johannes von Lintig, PhD.

Principles of Pharmacology II 

The Physiological Basis of Therapeutics (PHRM 402). This course focuses on human physiology of organ systems including the CNS, cardiovascular system, and systems (GI, hepatic, and renal) involved in determining drug biodisposition. A second emphasis is on disease-based sessions where normal physiology, pathophysiology, and key drug classes to treat pathologies are discussed. Students learn key concepts in endocrine pathologies, inflammatory disorders, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and infectious diseases, and cancer. A laboratory exercise is included that provides students with experience with administering drugs to a live animal and directly observing physiological changes. This 3-credit hour course meets 3 hours per week during the fall semester of year 2. Course Director: Paul N. Macdonald, PhD. 

Frontiers in Pharmacology

Student Journal Club Series (PHRM 511). This course provides students with practical experience in delivering effective scientific presentations. Students present primary research articles to the full assembly of the Department of Pharmacology, learning to organize a concise and coherent scientific presentation using effect slides and to deliver the information in an understandable and insightful manner to a general scientific audience. 

Advanced Courses 

The goal of the advanced courses is to complement the thesis work with additional formal training outside of the mentor’s laboratory. A key feature of the advanced curriculum is the flexibility to tailor the training plan to align with the career goals of each student. A complete list of current advanced courses can be found in the CWRU Bulletin. 

Cell Signaling

(PHOL/CLBY466, 3 credits). Cell signaling mechanisms, including gated ion channels, growth factor receptor kinases, cytokine and steroid receptors, GPCRs, G proteins, and Ras family GTPases, second messenger cascades, transcription factor regulation, microtubule- and actin/myosin-based motility, cell cycle and apoptosis regulation. 


Function, Structure, and Signaling (PATH/ CLBY417, 3 credits). Cytokine function, expression, receptors, and intracellular signaling, including regulatory and inflammatory cytokines, colony stimulating factors, chemokine/cytokine receptor families, intracellular signaling through STAT proteins and tyrosine phosphorylation, clinical potential, and genetic defects. 

Nuclear Receptors in Health and Disease

(PHRM/BIOC415, 3 credits). Hormone-gene interactions mediated by the ligand-inducible transcription factors, including their role as therapeutic targets in cancer, inflammation, and diabetes.

Cancer Biology and Therapeutics

(PHRM 520, 3 credits). Basic concepts of cancer biology and therapeutics, providing a broad overview of cancer biology and clinical oncology, including oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, cell cycle control, cell adhesion, and angiogenesis, tumor cell heterogeneity, metastasis, therapeutic approaches, and clinical oncology of selected malignancies. Additional training in therapeutics occurs in a 1 credit enrichment course linked to PHRM 520, involving CCC seminars and written critical evaluation of primary literature.

Protein Biophysics

(PHRM475, 3 credits). An in-depth understanding of the molecular biophysics of proteins. Structural, thermodynamic and kinetic aspects of protein function and structure-function relationships are considered at an advanced conceptual level. 

Advanced Methods in Structural Biology

(PHRM/BIOC430, 1-6 credits). This course is divided into 6 specific modules: a) X-ray crystallography, b) nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, c) optical spectroscopy, d) mass spectrometry, e) cryo-electron microscopy, and f) computational and design methods. Modules are scheduled in 5-week sessions and all can be taken in one semester. 

Structural Biology of Proteins, Enzymes and Nucleic Acids

(BIOC434, 3 credits). Introduction to the basic chemical properties of proteins and the physical forces that determine protein structure. Topics include the elucidation of protein structure by NMR and by X-ray crystallographic methods; the acquisition of protein structures from databases; and simple modeling experiments based on protein structures.  

Contemporary Approaches to Drug Discovery

(PHRM 526, 3 credits): Drug discovery and development from lead compounds through clinical trials, including medicinal chemistry, parallel synthesis, drug delivery, and devices, drug administration and pharmacokinetics, and clinical trials. Included are guest lectures by industrial leaders who provide specific examples of drug development.  A special emphasis is placed on hands-on experience with sophisticated drug discovery software. Each student conducts a project involving in silico screening and lead optimization against known drug targets, followed by drafting of an invention disclosure.

Pathways to Research in Translational Therapeutics

(PHRM 527, 3 credits): Students spend time in a clinical or community setting that most directly relates to their area of research interest. Based on this “bedside” experience and in collaboration with basic science and clinical mentors, students identify a significant therapeutic challenge in the treatment of the related patient population and write a review based on the available literature in this field. The course culminates with the presentation of the reviews at a symposium for the TTT members.  Students with outstanding review manuscripts are encouraged to submit them for publication.  

Mechanisms of Drug Resistance

(PHRM / MBIO 434, 3 credits).  Molecular, cellular and physiological mechanisms of resistance to antibiotics, anti-viral (& antiretroviral) and anti-fungal agents as well as cancer therapeutic agents.