As it turns 60, School of Pharmacy plans new center to improve medicines for kids

School Director Prof. Simon Benita demonstrates his Cationorm eye-drop nanemulsionJune 24, 2013: The Hebrew University's School of Pharmacy celebrated its first 60 years on June 24 with a festive alumni reunion and conference. At the same time, it is developing a new center that will improve the quality and availability of medicines and drug therapies to the youngest and most vulnerable patients.

Drug therapy plays an essential role in the health management of infants and children suffering from diseases. Yet the majority of drugs approved for adults have not been approved for use in younger patients. This creates an urgent need to develop research tools and address challenges in pediatric drug development and formulation in a broad range of medical conditions.

Responding to this need, the Hebrew University’s School of Pharmacy, in the Faculty of Medicine, will establish a new center for pharmaceutical research and drug therapy in children. With half a million dollars raised so far, additional funds are needed to help establish the Center for Pediatric Therapeutic and Pharmaceutical Research.

According to Prof. Simon Benita, School of Pharmacy Director and head of its Institute for Drug Research, "People do not fully understand the importance delivering specialized drug therapy in children. There are very serious diseases that affect children such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, which have no cure. Our research will not engage in finding a cure for these diseases, but will investigate how to effectively deliver medications in order to provide relief to the young people suffering from these diseases."

The new center joins three others worldwide working to improve the availability, safety and efficacy of medicines for children: one in the United States, one in the United Kingdom and a third in Germany. The Hebrew University’s center will be unique in its highly interdisciplinary approach, as well as its focus on novel pediatric delivery systems and finding replacements for clinical pediatric research.

Specifically, the center will address incurable diseases, particularly those of a genetic nature; building new models for testing drugs without needing to conduct clinical trials in children; and exploring methods of synthesizing molecules appropriate for children.

“The goal of the new center is to solve problems that currently have no solution and are not being actively researched," says Prof. Benita.

In 2012 the Hebrew University graduated Israel's first doctors of clinical pharmacy, who will work alongside medical doctors in hospitals and health clinics to guide patients toward correct, responsible and cautious use of medicines. Research has shown that the use of unsuitable medicines is the fifth highest source of mortality in the US, with more people dying from medical errors than from road accidents, breast cancer or AIDS.

The Hebrew University's School of Pharmacy was established in 1953. It is amongst the world's leading schools in training pharmacists and carrying out basic research in drug science. The School not only trains its graduates for professional practice in the pharmaceutical industry, providing them with a scientific and professional basis, it also offers higher education in pharmacology, medicinal chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences, as well as a doctoral degree in Clinical Pharmacy.

In December of 2012, Prof. Benita received the decoration of Knight in the National Order of Merit of France, in recognition of his scientific achievements and his contributions to the forging of close ties with French research.

Source: Media Relations