Faculty Highlight: Jason Karnes

Why did you choose to become a faculty member at the UA College of Pharmacy?

I chose to come to UA because of the burgeoning research program in precision medicine. The administration at UA is making tangible investments in this research and I wanted to be a part of it.

Are you working on any interesting projects, research, or initiatives? Please share.

Our research is aimed at understanding why people treated with the drug heparin get a severe, immune reaction called heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.  In particular, we are trying to identify genetic factors that predispose people to this reaction. In addition, we are trying to determine genetic factors that can be used to quickly detect when a person will get heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.

Some people carry genetic factors from specific genes that predispose them to drug reactions.  We have identified genetic factors in these genes that may predict whether a person will get heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.  We are comparing differences in these genes in people that got heparin-induced thrombocytopenia to people that didn’t get heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.  We are also testing whether a person’s immune response to heparin can be detected using genetic factors.

It is our goal to determine genetic factors that predispose people to heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, which can cause serious blood clots such as stroke.  The genetic factors can then be tested, used to determine who will get the reaction, and heparin can be avoided in these people. These experiments will help us to prevent heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and the serious cardiovascular problems it causes.  It is also our goal to use genetic factors to test for a person’s immune response to heparin.  This will enable us to quickly determine if a person will get heparin-induced thrombocytopenia so that we can stop the heparin, start treatment, and prevent potentially devastating effects of the reaction."

Where do you see the pharmacy profession going?

As someone who works in precision medicine, I see the profession of pharmacy getting into that space.  I think pharmacists will be leaders in pharmacogenomics, just as they have been in anti-coagulation, infectious disease, and transplant pharmacotherapy.  It's yet another niche that pharmacists will carve out for themselves.

How has the pharmacy profession changed since you began your practice?

It is getting tougher and tougher to get a good community pharmacist position in your preferred location right out of pharmacy school. My advice to PharmD students has been to further your education beyond the PharmD, investing several years in additional education to open your options.

How will the expansion and renovation of the Skaggs building help your research or teaching abilities?

My laboratory is in Skaggs and the researchers there have largely outgrown these facilities. The expansion and renovation will certainly help in more effectively finishing research projects and recruiting leading scientists to UA. I especially look forward to the building being more open to stimulate more collaboration.