Dayanjan Wisejinghe

August 2017

Research in
Action

"The school actively encourages an open door policy among faculty members towards student engagement and collaborative research. A majority of the faculty is on active clinical duty in diverse areas of specialty. They have a deep understanding of the pharmacology, which allows me to get almost any question I have answered by an expert."
Dayanjan (Shanaka) Wijesinghe, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Pharmacotherapy & Outcomes Science.

Why did you choose this career?

To explore what is unknown about the root causes of human disease has always been a passion of mine. Why do we get sick? Why do some people get better faster? What is it that we are doing correctly among those who get better and how can we replicate it in those who do not? Can we identify those who are about to get a disease before there are any symptoms of the disease to begin with? Those are the type of questions that interest me and the issues I'm passionate about understanding.

Having the questions by themselves is not enough. We need to have the means of addressing those questions. Only now is the technology we need to answer these questions maturing to be applied on a very broad scale. These maturing technologies include advances in multi-omics data acquisition, machine learning and artificial intelligence, affordable robotics and virtual reality/augmented reality/mixed reality-based data visualization. The convergence of these technologies towards the study of human health and disease has placed us on the verge of a technological singularity that will revolutionize how we understand and treat disease. A very exciting time to be a scientist!

What is the end game?

The end game is to understand human disease at a very fundamental level such that we can identify the onset of disease while the symptoms are still preclinical and undertake individualized treatment plans to either prevent or significantly delay the onset of the disease. This is the ultimate goal of what is referred to as personalized medicine, which is defined as the right treatment, to the right patient, at the right time and in the right dose. When coupled with preclinical diagnostics, these approaches will maximize treatment efficiency while minimizing side effects.

How would you sell VCU School of Pharmacy to prospective students or researchers?

VCU School of Pharmacy is the one place where I can find all the expertise and talent that I need to carry out this type of research. First and foremost, the school actively encourages an open door policy among faculty members towards student engagement and collaborative research. A majority of the faculty is on active clinical duty in diverse areas of specialty. They have a deep understanding of the pharmacology, which allows me to get almost any question I have answered by an expert. As scientists, we often identify solutions to medical problems that a majority of the time never translate to the clinic.

The primary reason for this is our lack of understanding of the health economics that is key to implementation. In this regard, VCU School of Pharmacy has a very highly rated pharmacoeconomics program. The faculty expertise within this program allows us to be highly aware of the health economic feasibility of our end goals such that their translational potential is very high. All this translates to a highly nurturing environment that not only encourages cutting-edge research, but also provides highly innovative and technological learning opportunities for students that are very rarely found anywhere else.

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