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Vivek Agrahari, who defended his doctoral dissertation at UMKC’s School of Pharmacy in November, is now working as a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Before leaving UMKC, Agrahari received two prestigious international awards: the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists-Graduate Student Research Award in Analysis and Pharmaceutical Quality and the 2015 Nicholas A. Peppas Young Student Scientists Travel Award from the Controlled Release Society to attend the CRS Annual Meeting in Edinburgh. He recently took time to talk about his accomplishments.

What do you do?

Agrahari’s research interests include drug delivery and nanoformulations for HIV prevention and therapeutics. His research at UMKC resulted in the development of a novel stimuli-sensitive nanoformulation system loaded with anti-HIV therapeutics that can prevent vaginal transmission of the HIV virus. The preliminary data, including preclinical safety/biocompatibility and in vitro anti-HIV efficacy, are very promising. His research at UNMC targets the eradication of HIV reservoirs in cells and tissues using nanoformulations. His doctoral research has been recognized with the Graduate Student Research Award from the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Analysis and Pharmaceutical Quality section and the Controlled Release Society Nicholas Peppas Young Student Scientist Travel Award in 2015.

Where are you from and how did you find your way to UMKC and especially such an offbeat and unconventional career?

I am from a small town in the northern part of the India. After finishing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pharmaceutical sciences and medicinal and pharmaceutical chemistry, respectively, I applied to several doctoral programs. This decision was strongly supported by my desire to learn more and I felt that whatever I had learned in my earlier degree programs was not sufficient to tackle several challenging problems in health science research. India is a good place to do PhD research in pharmaceutical sciences, with a lot of good resources and universities, but, I had a great interest in working in a multicultural society and this motivated me to look for a university outside India. I also believe that the globalization of education is one of the best ways to explore your potential and yourself. I received several positive responses for fellowship opportunities from universities across the continents, including, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. But decided to join UMKC for several reasons. First, there is no question that the US is a global leader in pharmaceutical science research. Second, the interdisciplinary PhD program at UMKC has an outstanding platform, and an excellent collaborative research environment supported by strong faculty members. Also, the research work explained by Dr. Youan at UMKC when he interviewed me was fascinating and I was very excited to join his lab (Laboratory of Future Nanomedicines and Theoretical Chronopharmaceutics) at School of Pharmacy.

What do these awards mean to you?

Awards are the recognitions that I have done something worthwhile that has been noticed by professionals from industry, academia and scientific labs of my research area and outside the university. The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) and the Controlled Release Society (CRS) are the two major and prestigious organizations in the pharmaceutical world and receiving an award from these organizations is an honor and gives me a great feeling. These awards will give me an inspiration throughout my life to keep discovering and developing novel therapeutics through the application of scientific research.

What is your area of research?

My research work is focused on novel drug formulation development for HIV virus vaginal transmission prevention mentored by Dr. Bi-Botti C. Youan, Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, at the UMKC School of Pharmacy. The research work is involved with the evaluation of preclinical safety, toxicology and anti-HIV activity of novel drug formulations of small and large molecules in animal models.

How did you come to this interest?

I always wanted to be a scientist in this field and to achieve excellence in learning about innovative medicines. There are several diseases in the world causing death, and HIV is one of them. At present, scientists are looking forward to the cure of HIV infections. I believe, the treatment of HIV infection will not completely solve the global HIV epidemic, but it needs a combinatorial approach of treatment and preventive measurements. Prevention is very important for those at risk of becoming infected, as well as for those who are already infected, who can then avoid transmitting HIV to others. This is why I became interested in researching the prevention of HIV virus transmission.

What is your top professional goal?

In my career path, I wish to achieve excellence in learning about the safe and effective way to use innovative pharmaceutical medicines. I hope to find a scientific position where I can apply my experiences for the improvement and discovery of innovative medicines. My research goals are to improve the health of society through the advancement of novel drug formulations with the effective and rational use of medicine. My ultimate aim is to move into a position of scientific and leadership responsibility where I can guide a research team. I have been involved with several organizations at UMKC, including the AAPS, CRS and PGSRM. The leadership experiences gained here will definitely help me achieve my professional goals.

What do you think pharmaceutical research can achieve in your lifetime?

Pharmaceutical Sciences research is a highly collaborative field and involves significant contributions from the physical, chemical and biological sciences people. It combines a broad range of scientific disciplines, which are critical to the development of new drug therapeutics. I believe nanotherapeutics will be the key in the future. Significant advances have been made in nanotherapeutic fields in the past few decades, which resulted in a number of therapeutic products. In the future, nanotechnology may provide new tools that could have a significant impact on the theranostics (therapeutics + diagnostics) applications and measures available to physicians.