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Cyrus Khojasteh receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Scott Herzog and Gary Harris of PAA present the Distinguished Alumni Award to Cyrus Khojasteh
Scott Herzog and Gary Harris of PAA present the Distinguished Alumni Award to Cyrus Khojasteh

CYRUS KHOJASTEH, ’98, chose to study Medicinal Chemistry at UWSOP after serendipitously attending a lecture by then Professor, now Dean Emeritus, Tom Baillie on acetaminophen mechanism of hepatotoxicity, drug induced liver injury, in the early 1990s. That lecture began a career in pharmaceutical science inspired by an interest in discovering innovative and safe medicine, a marriage of pharmacology and chemistry.

Cyrus is an internationally recognized expert in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics. His work in drug metabolism allows him to think about the chemistry of life and how a positive intervention is needed against a disease state. “Our bodies are designed to recognize and metabolize newly made chemicals not seen before,” he said. “By knowing one of the barriers (the drug metabolizing enzymes), how do we design and optimize molecules that are metabolically stable and minimize formation of reactive metabolites, which potentially can lead to toxicity.”

Cyrus fondly remembers his PhD advisor and mentor former Dean Sid Nelson: “He taught me how to be a thoughtful researcher and nurture talents.” Sid used to hold group meetings for students on Friday afternoons. “It was at those meetings that I learned how to get to the point and be focused on key questions,” recalls Cyrus.

And of course, after those group meetings, Sid would invite everyone to the College Inn. Cyrus remembers, “Some of the most complicated chemical reactions would be solved at the Pub but some reactions still remained a mystery the next day!”

“My advice to students is to explore and learn from the exceptional professors. When you graduate,  stay connected to our school.” –Cyrus Khojasteh, Pharmaceutics Alumnus

After graduating with his doctoral degree, Cyrus joined Pfizer and a couple of years later joined Genentech as the first drug metabolism expert. There, he is on both the scientific track (Principal Scientist) and the managerial track (Associate Director). He said when he learned of the Distinguished Alumni Award, he was “humbled by the recognition and thought of all those who contributed.”


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