Drug Discovery and Development Course

Program Description

The Drug Discovery and Development (D3) course is a first-of-its kind collaboration between the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) and Fast Forward Medical Innovation, a unit of the U-M Medical School Office of Research.

U-M is the first academic institution to host the NIBR D3 course and provide expert drug development education and training for its faculty members.

The D3 Course is a 2-day exclusive, project-based, and simulated approach to teaching drug discovery and development. Participants will be assigned roles on a project team and tasked with the discovery and development of a new medicine. Throughout the course, participants will encounter and make decisions about various scientific challenges, including choosing a therapeutic area and drug target, searching for potential chemical leads, optimizing and progressing those leads through preclinical research, demonstrating that the resulting drug candidate is safe and effective in patients, advancing the drug through subsequent clinical trials, and submitting the drug for registration with the health authorities.

Program Participants:

  • Early-mid-career faculty or principal investigators
    Seating is limited to 18 participants – Participants must commit to the full 2-day program, as course material relies on teamwork


Participant Objectives:

  • Explain and discuss unmet medical need, knowledge of mechanism, disease expansion opportunities, and other factors considered when evaluating/pursuing a therapeutic target
  • Describe in general terms the stages of drug discovery and development, and what activities typically occur in those stages 
  • Explain the contribution of different scientific/clinical disciplines to drug discovery and development
  • Propose and justify key elements of decision-making studies, both pre-clinical and clinical, and recognize the importance of identifying the critical path unique to each project necessary to move it forward
  • Recognize and discuss challenges a project team may encounter in their mission to discover and develop a new drug

Faculty Leads

Ross Tracey, Ph.D. Associate Director, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research

Ross Tracey has extensive experience in industry advancing and delivery novel small molecules and biologic therapeutics that includes positions at Pfizer and Novartis. As an Associate Director at Novartis, he is passionate about building and motivating winning multidisciplinary teams, adding value to research programs, reducing costs, and improving productivity as the lead scientific educator.

Jonathan Sexton, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry University of Michigan

Jonny Sexton is an assistant professor of medicine in internal medicine, division of gastroenterology and hepatology and in medicinal chemistry in the college of pharmacy, and is faculty lead for drug repurposing in the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR) and director of the new Center for Drug Repurposing (CDR).

U-M Center for Drug Repurposing



The new Center for Drug Repurposing offers the following services to support indication discovery for existing drugs:

  • Access to our collection of 6,000 clinically-evaluated small molecule drugs
  • Mining drug/clinical candidate information including off target effects, adverse events, pharmacokinetics, and safety
  • Research consultation involving discovery approaches, translation to clinical use and FDA regulatory, and commercialization strategy
  • Data mining in electronic health records (EHR) to query drugs vs. diseases


For questions, please contact Jon Servoss, M.S., Director of Commercialization Education, at 734-764-2692 or servossj@med.umich.edu.


Fast Forward Medical Innovation

February 3, 2022