ETSU pharmacy students launch pharmaceutical industry chapter

Published 3:07 pm Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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JOHNSON CITY – Students at East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy have created a group focused on preparing them for career opportunities in the growing pharmaceutical industry.
Joining as the 88th chapter of the Industry Pharmacists Organization (IPhO) National Student Chapter Network, the student group will be guided by Dr. Siva Digavalli, associate professor of Pharmaceutical Science. He has 18 years of drug discovery and development experience, including serving as a principal scientist at the global biopharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb, where he led a team to develop a dozen new drugs, many of which are undergoing or have completed early phase clinical trials.
“In addition to the well-known roles that pharmacists play in the therapeutic care of patients through community and hospital pharmacies and as part of team-based care, they also play a pivotal role in how drugs are discovered, developed, manufactured and regulated,” said Digavalli. “They form some very important and highly rewarding career paths to well-trained pharmacists.”
Digavalli was hopeful that the new organization would be an avenue to connect Gatton College of Pharmacy students with industrial pharmacist careers in pharmaceutical hubs like the U.S. Northeast or the bay area in California.
Ben Kennard (’22), of Dandridge, was very interested in pursuing an industrial pharmacy career, along with Maria Bertoni (’22). Kennard serves as president and Bertoni as vice president of the organization.
“IPhO is an organization tailored for students to have direct exposure to the pursuit of a pharmaceutical industry career,” said Kennard, who is completing an internship at the National Institutes of Health this summer. “There are a lot of opportunities pharmacy students do not have here because the majority of the industry experiences are elsewhere in the country. The beginning of IPhO will bring another element to hopefully prepare Gatton students for whatever their path may be.”
At ETSU, Digavalli’s laboratory focuses on developing and validating electroencephalography-based biomarkers for target engagement, dose selection and patient stratification for neuropsychiatric disorders.
Digavalli earned his bachelor of science in pharmacy and master of pharmacology from Kakatiya University, Warangal, India. He went on to earn a master of science in toxicology from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and a Ph.D. in pharmacology and experimental therapeutics from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. He received his postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Swallowing and Motility Disorders.
To learn more about Gatton College of Pharmacy, visit

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