Richard Weinshilboum, M.D. (PHARM, ’72) Receives 2014 Mayo Distinguished Alumni Award

Chair, Division of Clinical Pharmacology
Professor of Molecular Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and Medicine
Mary Lou and John H. Dasburg Professor in Cancer Genomics Research
Mayo Clinic Rochester

Pioneer and major force in the field of pharmacogenomics

Joined Mayo Clinic staff in 1972 as a consultant in the departments of Molecular Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and Internal Medicine and assistant professor of pharmacology and internal medicine; chief, Clinical Pharmacology Unit (1974); associate professor of pharmacology (1976); associate professor of internal medicine (1977); professor (1979); director for research, Mayo Foundation (1984); chairman, Department of Pharmacology (1989); director for education, Mayo Foundation (1992); co-director, Pharmacogenomics Translational Program, Mayo Center for Individualized Medicine.

Dr. Weinshilboum has had a worldwide impact on research and was one of the original pioneers in the field known as pharmacogenetics. His continuing translational work is making a seminal impact on present-day individualized medicine.

His research contributions have been substantial and continuous and have evolved over time. From an initial focus on phase 2 drug metabolizing enzymes to understanding the actions of antidepressants to novel findings related to the development of breast cancer, he has concentrated on using genetic variation to make mechanistic discoveries that reveal fundamental biology and can be harnessed to predict drug responses.

His main goal is to develop safer and more effective drug therapies to treat a wide range of diseases. His research is patient-oriented, using genomic techniques such as genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and whole genome DNA sequencing from vast numbers of patients who have been treated with a specific anti-cancer or antidepressant drug.

His research has enormous implications to therapeutic medicine. One of his major discoveries led to the FDA changing the official product label of a drug (6-mercaptopurine) to treat children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

In his role as director of the Pharmacogenomics Translational Program in the Center for Individualized Medicine at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Weinshilboum has been fundamental in introducing drug gene rules into the electronic medical record and in initiating three major clinical trials – in cardiology, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

He has been a force in education and administration at Mayo Clinic, having taught one aspect or another of pharmacology to virtually every medical student who has come through Mayo Medical School. He was a leading participant in the group that created what has become the highly successful Mayo Graduate School. He has served in many administrative positions including almost a decade as vice chair of the Executive Committee of Mayo Foundation.

Dr. Weinshilboum is recognized as one of the premier investigators in the Pharmacogenomics Research Network, and he has served on the advisory councils for two U.S. NIH institutes – the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

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