T H E   N I H   C A T A L Y S T     N O V E M B E R   –   D E C E M B E R  2002


"Pharmacology is a very special area, and the PRAT [Pharmacology Research Associate] program is a very special program," Peter Blumberg told a gathering of individuals whose presence at a PRAT awards ceremony in July signaled their likely agreement with his enthusiasm for the field.

Chief of the Molecular Mechanisms of Tumor Promotion Section, NCI, and chairman of the PRAT advisory committee, Blumberg keynoted the first formal occasion to recognize those fellows completing the NIGMS-sponsored PRAT program—this year there were seven. The ceremony included a reception, a poster session, a plenary session, and presentations of the research of four current PRATs. The newest class, comprising six fellows working at five different NIH institutes, came on board October 7.

Established in 1965, the PRAT program offers training, career advice, and networking opportunities to postdoctoral researchers interested in the field of pharmacology. It is a two-year program with the possibility for a third year and, like the field of pharmacology, is cross-disciplinary. Research presented at the summer event ranged from the discovery of new genetic targets for breast cancer drugs to the molecular mechanisms of chemotaxis.

The fellows, who interact regularly through PRAT-sponsored events, consider bumping shoulders with those in other fields to be one of the most valuable aspects of the program. There is a monthly seminar series at which second-year fellows present their work and guest speakers elaborate on career options—not only research in various environments but also in such lines as patent law, science education, and grants administration.

Most PRATs gravitate to research careers in academia—and most arrive at that destination. Of the 340 PRAT program graduates, more than 90 percent have continued in research careers, with more than 60 percent of these in academia.

Alisa Zapp Machalek

(Left): Peter Blumberg (center), chair, PRAT advisory committee, girded by Richard Okita and Pamela Marino (PRAT program co-directors)

(Right) Juanita Sharpe, a third-year PRAT fellow, speaks on "Cardiolipin modulation by the Bcl-2 family members in apoptosis regulation"


(Left) Erik Snapp, newly graduated PRAT fellow, presents poster on "Remodeling of the endoplasmic reticulum in living cells"

(Right) Kristi Egland, a second-year PRAT fellow, speaks on "Discovery of new breast cancer genes encoding membrane and secreted proteins for use as immunotherapy targets"



Coming Soon: Next Class of PRATS

The deadline for applications to the NIGMS Pharmacology Research Associate (PRAT) program is January 3, 2003, for positions starting in October 2003. The PRAT program supports two years of training in NIH or FDA laboratories for postdoctoral candidates in the pharmacological sciences and related research areas. These may include, but are not limited to, molecular pharmacology, signal-transduction mechanisms, drug metabolism, immunopharmacology, chemistry and drug design, structural biology, endocrinology, bioinformatics, and neuroscience. PRAT fellows receive competitive salaries as well as supply and travel funds to support research in their preceptors’ laboratories. Candidates apply in conjunction with an identified preceptor, who may be any tenured or tenure-track scientist at NIH or FDA. For more information or application materials, contact the PRAT program assistant at 301-594-3583 or by e-mail.


A sister program called Clinical Pharmacology PRAT, and nicknamed ClinPRAT, was launched four years ago and is open to individuals with M.D. degrees. It is designed to create a cadre of scientists in the clinical development, evaluation, and therapeutic use of small molecule- and biotechnology-based pharmacotherapy. For more information on this program, contact Art Atkinson at 301-435-8791 or by e-mail<aatkinson@mail.cc.nih.gov> or visit the ClinPRAT website.



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