WSU Applebaum Pharmaceutical Sciences Alumni Spotlight: Aktham Mestareehi, PhD ’21

We are catching up with Pharmaceutical Sciences alumni, starting with Aktham Mestareehi, who earned his PhD from the program just this year. Submit your own details for Pharmaceutical Sciences Alumni Spotlight consideration by filling out our form.

Q: Who was your WSU Applebaum thesis/dissertation advisor?

A: Dr. Zhengping Yi (advisor) and Dr. Anjaneyulu Kowluru (co-advisor)

Q: What are you up to now?

A: I’m a Senior Scientist II, Biochemistry (AbbVie Research & Development) at AbbVie Biopharmaceuticals in Chicago.Aktham Mestareehi, PhD ’21

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: I will start off by saying that I can’t imagine being anything but a scientist, and of course all jobs have ups and downs. I feel fortunate to have this career.

I, like most, am figuring out and interpreting the data, learning more about how the cells and the molecules work, puzzling out how the research and development proceeds, and pinpointing what can go wrong, which is very fascinating and essential to helping us develop new treatments.

It is a lot of fun to work with AbbVie! We can influence all stages of drug discovery process, from early stage and late stage, to understand and optimize synthetic routes for large-scale production.  

I really enjoy working with my trainees, students, technicians and postdocs. That is a massive part of why I like science. I totally understand that there are challenging aspects of being a scientist when experiments do not work, which also relates to the other issue of having to repeat experiments many times for several months to really figure out what is going on with a certain hypothesis.

Q: Why did you choose to study Pharmaceutical Sciences at the WSU Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences?

A: My work experiences are greatly advanced by my laboratory skill set, and motivated me to become an independent researcher. I wanted to be formulating the research plan, not simply working at the bench and interpreting the results. I wanted more of a say in the direction the research was going.

I also found that conducting research that I knew would have positive impacts on human health was my true passion. Knowing that my research would improve patient care was a great motivation.

The entire basis of our work was to facilitate the implementation of molecular diagnostic techniques into a clinical setting, which would ultimately improve patient diagnosis and care. This close link between my benchtop and improving patient health and well-being is the reason I chose a PhD in the Pharmaceutical Sciences.

While at WSU Applebaum

  • Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate research assistant, 2017-21                                                
    • Investigated the molecular mechanisms for metformin’s action in primary human skeletal muscle cells. Skeletal muscle insulin resistance is associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cardiovascular diseases. Metformin is the first-line drug for T2D treatment. Main known effects of metformin include decreasing liver glucose production and increasing insulin sensitivity (i.e., decreasing insulin resistance) in skeletal muscle, however, molecular mechanism of metformin’s action in skeletal muscle remains elusive. The goal of the study is to address the knowledge gaps regarding molecular mechanisms by which metformin increases the insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle, which may provide new drug targets for skeletal muscle insulin resistance to reduce the risk of T2D and cardiovascular diseases. We have found that metformin increases protein phosphatase 2A Activity In primary human skeletal muscle cells. In addition,  utilizing state-of-the-art proteomics and phosphoproteomics approaches developed in our laboratory, we have discovered new proteins, protein phosphorylation and protein-protein interactions in various pathways that are responsive to metformin treatment.
  • Chair of American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists and graduate student representative, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2018-21
  • Recipient of the Fusao Hirata Endowed Scholarship, 2020

Pharmaceutical Sciences is a multidisciplinary department providing expertise in the areas of drug discovery, development and evaluation. They are dedicated to pursuing scholarship that creates new knowledge, learning that disseminates and preserves knowledge, and engagement that exchanges knowledge. Learn more about the department and its application process.

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