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Research Profile: Giovanni Pauletti

Published on 27 May 2020

Giovanni Pauletti, M.Pharm., Ph.D., Gustavus & Henry Pfeiffer Professor of Pharmacy and chair of pharmaceutical and administrative sciences, specializes in working with interdisciplinary research teams on new and improved drug delivery systems, namely for women’s health and global health populations.

“My work in drug delivery means that I’m either creating novel technologies or improving existing technologies to provide patients with the medications they need with better results and fewer side effects,” Pauletti explained. “For example, we look at the composition of a tablet to see if we can make it more efficient or longer lasting so that a patient needs to take fewer each day. Or we look at methods that deliver the drug precisely to the part of the body that needs it, rather than flooding the body with a substance and hoping a small amount reaches the desired area.”

Pauletti’s journey to pharmaceutical science began as a student at the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland. Commonly referred to as ETH Zurich, the institution is well known for its Nobel Prize winning scientists, including Albert Einstein. During his time at ETH Zurich, Pauletti pursued a rigorous, interdisciplinary undergraduate education in basic sciences, which prepared him for his later work in research.

After completing his Master of Pharmacy and Ph.D. in biopharmaceutics and pharmacokinetics at ETH Zurich, Pauletti conducted his postdoctoral research at the University of Kansas. During his five years there, Pauletti worked with interdisciplinary teams to develop oral delivery methods for peptide and protein therapeutics, a field that was new and cutting-edge at the time.

Following his time at the University of Kansas, Pauletti joined the new pharmacy program at Texas Tech University in Amarillo, Texas. While at Texas Tech, Pauletti helped develop a pharmaceutics program. His work then took him to the University of Cincinnati, where he spent 20 years as a professor, researcher, administrator and the director of the graduate program in pharmaceutical science. It was at the University of Cincinnati that he began collaborating with other academic programs on campus.

“At Cincinnati, I worked with researchers from the College of Medicine and the College of Engineering as well as with colleagues from the College of Pharmacy,” Pauletti explained. “For many years, I worked on very exciting projects with people from molecular pharmacology, material sciences, and even electrical engineering. I greatly enjoyed working with colleagues from different fields and developing new projects.”

With his collaborators at Cincinnati, Pauletti developed novel devices for drug delivery to improve treatment for cancer and women’s health. His work included efforts to create targeted therapeutics that have the ability to attack cancer cells without damaging other cells in the body, and eliminate the unpleasant side effects associated with cancer medications. In the area of women’s health, Pauletti helped create a medication designed to provide improved pain relief for dysmenorrhea, a condition that results in painful menstruation, and developed a non-hormonal birth control device with increased effectiveness.

His work on the non-hormonal birth control device was initially funded by the Gates Foundation with the goal of improving women’s health in developing countries. This device was designed to be more effective, easier to use and less harmful to a woman’s body than spermicides, while also eliminating the side effects of hormonal treatments.

Pauletti joined St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 2019 and brought his research projects and funding with him. His non-hormonal birth control device is currently being supported by the National Institutes of Health through an initial $720,000 grant. Since coming to the College, Pauletti has begun collaborating on the project with the Center for Reproductive Health Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, in addition to continuing his collaborations with researchers in Cincinnati.

Pauletti has also received funding from the World Health Organization (WHO) for a global health project designed to help ease health disparities related to the approval of new medicines.

“The WHO’s objective is to facilitate medication access in developing countries,” Pauletti explained. “Worldwide, if molecules are approved in one country, they can't just be imported and used in another country. They have to first be demonstrated as safe and effective in the country, which requires expensive clinical trials. This makes it much more difficult for people in developing countries to receive new medicines. I’m working with WHO to identify molecules that are safe and effective enough that they could be eligible for a faster drug approval process.”

Pauletti’s interest in global health initiatives helped lead him to the College, where he is currently supporting the development of a new master’s degree program in Global Health and Equity.

“Global Health is an emerging interdisciplinary field that gives our students more opportunities to analyze health trends and find solutions for health challenges across communities,” Pauletti explained. “As health care practitioners, our students are already passionate about improving their patients’ health. When they study global health, they learn how to make a difference in wider communities. This new program will place our students and the College at the cutting-edge of health care. I’m excited to be in a place where I can continue to build on my expertise in drug delivery and further my work in global health alongside these outstanding students.”

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