Martha Pastuszka

MarthaAfter graduating from USC Mann in 2014 with a PhD in molecular pharmacology and toxicology, Martha Pastuszka began a fellowship in pharmaceutical development at Irvine-based Allergan as part of the School’s Fellowship Program that partners with industry to train clinical scientists.

At Allergan, Pastuszka is working on the development of biodegradable polymer implants for intravitreal drug delivery—that is, devices placed into patients’ eyes that that slowly release ophthalmic-disease medications and then are absorbed into patients’ bodies.

These studies are a fitting follow-up to Pastuszka’s work in the lab of Assistant Professor J. Andrew MacKay at USC, where her research focused on environmentally responsive protein polymers, biomanufacturing and molecular cloning. Being in an industry setting is important training for Pastuszka, who wants to pursue work that can make a difference for patients. “USC is at the forefront of translational research,” she says.

On the way to her PhD, she also completed a Master’s degree in Management of Drug Development, and was awarded a predoctoral fellowship in pharmaceutical sciences from the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education and a Grayson and Judith Manning Fellowship. In 2013, she received a best abstract award for her project, “Thermally Responsive Intracellular Switch,” at the Nanomedicine and Drug Delivery Symposium.

“My poster described how we can control what a cell does or does not do,” says Pastuszka. “Being able to do this at our own will helps us understand why a cell acts abnormally in diseases such as cancer. My poster described the first experiments to test these new nanotechnology techniques.”