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Left to right: UCLA MAE alumnus Professor Pak Kin Wong, Prof. Chih-Ming Ho, UCLA MAE alumnus and Wormley Family Early Career Professor Tak Sing Wong.

Chih-Ming Ho, UCLA MAE Distinguished Research Professor gave the Air Products Distinguished Lecture at Penn State College of Engineering on January 30, 2017. The topic was “Redefining the Drug Discovery Pathway – From Drug Candidate Search to Phenotypic Personalized Medicine.”


Patient response rates to chemotherapy are fairly low in cancer treatment, often due to human diversity and cancer heterogeneity. For example, the response rate for lung cancer is about 25 percent and only 10 percent for hepatoma. Therefore, personalized medicine is necessary to improve treatment efficacy/response rate as well as safety by providing precisely tailored patient therapy.

Cancer and infectious disease therapy often use combinatorial medicine, where multiple compounds that address different pathways may improve treatment outcomes. Conventional multi-drug regimens are often additively determined. In addition, the maximum tolerated doses (MTD) of each drug for ensuring cancer-killing efficiency is usually used as a reference in the combinatorial regimen. Toxicity, hence, becomes a challenge in developing drug combinations. Current methods are far from optimal. Rational combinatorial design must move beyond arbitrary dosing practice.

To address these major challenges, recent technology developments have enabled the precise determination of which medicines may be most effective for a single patient based on his/her specific phenotypic expression. We have discovered that the patient response to drug inputs is governed by a parabolic response surface (PRS). Based on the PRS platform, phenotypic personalized medicine (PPM) can realize unprecedented levels of adaptability to rapidly home in on an optimized drug-dose combination based on the measured end-point phenotype of a specific patient. PPM is an indication agnostic and mechanism-free platform technology, which has been successfully demonstrated in about 25 diseases for children and adults.

Link to event flyer here.