USC Pharmacy, Allergan celebrate joint legacy
Pioneering institutions Allergan Inc. and the USC School of Pharmacy celebrated two of their visionary past leaders, Gavin S. Herbert and John A. Biles, along with the fellowship program that the two men established decades ago, at a luncheon in Irvine on Feb. 8.
“While universities and corporations often work together and collaborate on projects, few are marked by the longevity and intersections that characterize the connections between Allergan and the School of Pharmacy,” said Dean R. Pete Vanderveen.
Back in the early 1950s, Allergan was a small producer of anti-allergy eye and nasal drops with sales of about $50,000 per year. The inventor of many of the early formulas at the company unexpectedly died of a heart attack, and the formulas went with him. Allergan hired School of Pharmacy dean emeritus Biles, then a young USC professor, to recreate the formulas. And he did.
“If John hadn’t recreated those formulas, there would be no Allergan today,” said Herbert, chairman emeritus of Allergan, today a global multispecialty health care company. He also is a USC life trustee.
“Today, Allergan sales are close to $6 billion,” Biles said. “Gavin was a disciplined leader who was a futurist. His view widened my perspective.”
As the two men advanced in their careers, Herbert, who had served as a pharmacy technician in the military, asked Biles why it took pharmacy students in college four years to learn what he grasped in six months in the military.
That question motivated Biles to consider ways to expand the role of the pharmacist beyond dispensing drugs. He pushed for educating pharmacy students to be members of a health care team, preparing them to work directly with patients and manage medications toward a therapeutic goal. At the time, pharmacy students did not receive that kind of clinical exposure and training. Thinking like a futurist himself, Biles launched the nation’s first required clinical pharmacy clerkships in 1970.
“The long-standing relationship between the USC School of Pharmacy and Allergan is grounded in a mutual commitment to excellence and the spirit of innovation, which has only grown stronger as both institutions have become more influential,” said USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Elizabeth Garrett. “The School of Pharmacy, its faculty and students will continue to flourish as they follow in the footsteps of visionary leaders like dean emeritus Biles and life trustee Herbert.”
Today, schools nationwide include clinical clerkships as a pivotal part of the pharmacy curriculum. In addition, Herbert and Biles were forerunners in the establishment of the School of Pharmacy’s fellowship program, which continues to provide unique opportunities to newly minted Pharm.D. and Ph.D. students interested in pursuing careers in industry. Allergan will send nine fellows through the USC program in 2012-13, up from its current eight fellows.
Among the event attendees was Janet Cheetham, one of the first fellows in the program when it began in 1977 and currently a vice president of clinical development at Allergan. The event provided an opportunity for current fellows to talk with, Herbert, Biles, past fellows and representatives from USC and Allergan in an intimate setting.
Fellows also had a chance to pose for photos with Herbert, who playfully reminded them of Allergan’s upcoming research and development day.
“Hope you have something good to show,” he said.