Welcome from the chair

Lance McMahon and Jay McLaughlin, Pharmacodynamics professors Pharmacy
Lance McMahon, chair and professor of the department of pharmacodynamics

Welcome to the department of pharmacodynamics in the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Pharmacodynamics is fundamental to both pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences in the search for new, life-enhancing medicines. Drugs modify biological processes, and biological processes modify drugs. Pharmacodynamics, one of two subdisciplines of pharmacology, aims to understand how drugs modify biological processes, and ultimately how drugs modify human physiology and disease. The second major pharmacology subdiscipline, pharmacokinetics, endeavors to understand the reverse relationship; that is, pharmacokinetics is the study of how biological processes act to transform drugs.

The study of pharmacodynamics has incredible depth and breadth, and we are passionate about identifying new cures for the most intractable diseases of our day. Our pharmacodynamics department faculty members are engaged daily in trying to better understand how drugs act, and the human biological processes upon which drugs act. We test drugs and ask both quantitative and qualitative questions. Quantitative inquiry asks “how much drug is needed to produce an effect?” (potency) and “what magnitude of effect is this drug going to produce?” (efficacy). Qualitative inquiry asks “how can this drug be categorized on the basis of where and how it acts?” The quest does not stop here, because pharmacodynamic scientists must also understand human anatomy and physiology. We ask “where is this drug acting?” and “how is this drug impacting the myriad biological processes located there?” To answer these questions, we drill down into the basic building blocks of life, identify them, and understand how they interact. Then we step back and ask “how do all these parts fit together to create normal functioning and disease?” Hopefully you find these questions as fascinating as we do, and recognize their value to our commitment to improve the human condition. As we pursue these questions there is a buzz and excitement in our department that is felt by all our faculty, staff, postdoctoral associates, Ph.D. students, and undergraduate research fellows and volunteers. On a per capita (per faculty member) basis we are among the most well-funded pharmacy departments in the world, with respect to federal funding agencies including the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH is the world’s leading funding source for biomedical research outside the private sector, and our remarkable success in securing NIH funding is a clear marker of our research excellence.

The department of pharmacodynamics is highly integrative and collaborative, spanning molecular, cellular, and systems pharmacology and physiology. Faculty study physiological and pharmacological mechanisms underlying stress, anxiety, drug abuse, pain, neuroinflammation, cardiovascular function, metabolic diseases, and cancer. In addition, the department offers a pharmaceutical sciences doctoral degree program that allows aspiring scientists to train under the direction of pharmacodynamics faculty and their collaborators across the University of Florida health science campus.

Lance McMahon, Ph.D., Professor and Chair