New HIV drug therapies developed by Gilead Sciences were the topic of discussion at the 2019 Allen I. White Lecture presented by Bill J. Smith, Ph.D. on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Dr. Smith, executive director at Gilead Sciences and head of the Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics (DMPK) department presented, “Long acting therapeutics – pharmacologic, physicochemical, and nonclinical pharmacokinetic characterization of a novel HIV capsid inhibitor,” to more than 100 students and faculty members of the Washington State University (WSU) College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS).
Smith is the most recent in a long line of speakers brought to the college as part of the Allen I. White lectureship. Since the first lecture in 1981, there have been a total of 28 speakers.
The lectureship was established in honor of former CPPS Dean Allen I. White. Dr. White was a pharmaceutical chemistry professor at the CPPS for 39 years. During the last 19 years of his career he also served as dean of the college. Upon his retirement in 1979, Professors Charles Martin and Vishnu Batia wanted to do something to honor Dr. White. Instead of a banquet or a scholarship, White suggested a lectureship.
The purpose of the lecture is to discuss the scientific, social or political aspects of pharmacy or related matters. Speakers are chosen to reflect Dr. White’s professional philosophy: effective leadership does not simply accept change, but views it as an ongoing professional challenge to be grasped and shaped to meet the needs of society.
Dr. Smith fits into this legacy through his ongoing work developing drugs which fit the needs of patients today. According to Smith, “50% of patients do not take medications as prescribed.” He hopes to improve this rate this through education, reduced pill burdens and less frequent dosages.
During his lecture, Smith discussed a therapy currently being tested, GS-6207. GS-6207 is a novel, investigational HIV-1 capsid inhibitor which may contribute to future long-acting HIV therapies. The hope is that such therapies will allow drugs to slowly release into HIV patient’s system over a long period of time. This would mean that a small dose of the medication would remain active in the patient’s system for weeks at a time, potentially eliminating the need for near-constant redosings.
Smith has an extensive history in his field, serving as the co-author of 40 research articles, a past editorial board member and associate editor of Drug Metabolism and Disposition, and past president of the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics (ISSX).
Bringing distinguished and renowned speakers, like Smith, to Washington State University to engage with students and faculty is part of how the college strives to advance human health through excellence in collaborative research, scholarship and clinical education, and to develop outstanding health care professionals and scientists. In doing so the college hopes to serve Dr. White’s vision through his lectureship.
“Dean White touched so many students and influenced so many careers,” said Linda Garrelts MacLean, vice dean of the college. “The wisdom he showed when he wrote ‘the best jobs haven’t been started, the best work hasn’t been done’ in 1978 still holds true today.”
White was known for helping and encouraging students to be their very best. Today, there are still those deeply impacted by White’s mentorship. “The influence he had on my career and me as a person continues to this day as I try to provide this same kind of mentorship to my students,” said MacLean.
White embodied this mindset of mentorship and encouragement in both his professional and personal life. Recently, White’s daughter, Connie McNeil shared a similar sentiment with the college:
“We are very proud of Dad and especially of the way he helped and encouraged students and others to be their very best. From what I have learned from alumni letters and reports, he was especially strong in making sure that women did not consider themselves as second-class citizens. I know that my sisters and I never felt that we should consider some sort of lesser career because of our gender. Dad was very proud of our successful careers, and we were/are very gratified that he was proud.”
Even those students who did not have the opportunity to be mentored directly by White were affected by his leadership within the college. “Dr. White had a role in seeing that I received scholarship aid and providing lab work that paid,” said Julia Marshall, class of 1965. “I felt really lucky and cared for with the scholarship aid and work opportunities. Those opportunities clearly originated through [White’s] capacity as a dean that encouraged and supported opportunities for women.”
Contributions from donors make the Allen I. White lectureship possible. If you are interested in supporting this effort, please visit www.give.wsu.edu and search for the Allen I. White lectureship fund.
Past lectures can be found at pharmacy.wsu.edu/about-us/history/allen-i-white/