Blazing a Trail

Innovation guides Kisor’s path

Kisor-photo-credit-Sean-Finnerty

Fate played no role in David Kisor and pharmacy science finding one another. More earthly elements made that happen.

Ink, for example. Paper. Lead type.

All of that comprised the Cleveland Press, a Scripps afternoon daily Kisor delivered growing up in Cleveland. The adopted son of a Cleveland city worker and an administrative assistant, he loved the Browns, suffered with the Indians and delivered the Press. Kisor reflects on his childhood with fondness.

And it somehow delivered to him his life’s path.

“I never thought about medicine necessarily,” recalls Kisor, Manchester’s director of pharmacogenomics education. “But I somehow got involved in delivering the Sunday morning paper to the drugstore, and they told me they had an opening for a stock boy. And that’s how I really ended up going into pharmacy.”

All these years later, delivering the Sunday paper to the drugstore has led him to Fort Wayne and to Manchester, where he oversees a program that leads the nation in the innovative science of pharmacogenomics.

He brought a wealth and variety of experience to the task.

A former national chair of the pharmacogenomics group of the American Association of Clinical Pharmacology, Kisor received his Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy from Ohio Northern University and his Pharm.D. from Ohio State. He did a therapeutic drug monitoring and pharmacokinetics fellowship at OSU, and was the chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences at the Raabe College of Pharmacy at Ohio Northern when Manchester tapped him to lead its pharmacogenomics program.

Along the way, he also worked in the private sector as a research scientist at Burroughs Wellcome Co. (now GlaxoSmithKline), an experience that enabled him to plant a foot in two worlds at once.
“It was a very academic pharmaceutical company,” explains Kisor. “You could submit internal grants that would be funded by the company to do your research and that had nothing to do with an FDA submission. So it was very academic in nature. 

“That’s really what connected me back to academia, because that was what they did. It was great to learn to be able to bring some of that expertise to the classroom.”

It’s expertise he gets to apply frequently. While at Manchester, he says, “numerous students” have come to him with questions about the pharmaceutical industry. Kisor’s knowledge of that landscape has been particularly valuable in helping them pursue fellowships.

“I’ve been able to help them think about that,” he says.

A whole lot of thinking went into Manchester’s dedicated Master of Science in PGx Program, the first of its kind in the nation when it launched in May 2016. Although Kisor had been integrating pharmacogenomics into pharmacokinetics subject matter since 1998, there was no roadmap for a dedicated MS program in PGx – the science of utilizing an individual’s genetics to optimize drug therapy.

He credits the vision of Manchester to forge ahead anyway. And he credits the students in that first cohort, whom Kisor says helped shape the program, as much as the instructors.

The common goal was worth it.

“I think it was really important to meld pharmacy and pharmacogenomics, because the pharmacists are really in the best position to do this,” Kisor says. “They know the medication, and they can apply genetics to the medications lists of any patient better than anybody.

“And right now, it’s really paying off in a couple ways. We have now a number of students who have positions around the country ... They’re all going to be all over the country in building this virtual mass of people to help move this forward.”

Manchester has done its own part in moving things forward, adding an online PGx program and a dual Pharm.D./Pharmacogenomics degree that, again, was the first of its kind in the nation. And recently the entire landscape of PGx got a huge boost when one of the Medicare administrative contractors for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cleared the way for reimbursement for PGx testing.

“This has been anticipated for quite awhile and serves as a milestone in the evolution of precision medicine,” Kisor says. “As we see more testing, there will be an increased need for PGx expertise, both in the laboratory and across pharmacy and medical practice settings.”

Which makes staying ahead of the curve even more imperative, constant challenge that it is.

“Really, it’s a very fluid and very up and down area,” Kisor says. “And what I mean by that is we’ve had a number of times over the past five years that PGx is something that’s been very positive in the medical literature, and then it’s sort of become hindered by regulatory issues or payer issues. So really to stay in front of it, you just have to stay aware of the business side of things as well as the science side of things.”