Katalin Prokai (Tatrai), Ph.D.
Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Education & experience:
I received BSci in Chemical Engineering, MSci in Chemistry and Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry, all with Summa Cum Laude from the University of Veszprem, Veszprem, Hungary. I spent a number of years at University of Florida conducting medicinal chemistry/pharmaceutical science-driven basic science research. In 2005 I joined to the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience at UNTHSC, and then in 2012 to the UNT System College of Pharmacy at UNTHSC.
Teaching areas & interests in pharmacy and the pharmaceutical sciences:
I have long been involved in teaching broad aspects of general and organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and drug discovery & delivery with special emphasis on the central nervous system. In addition to didactic activities, mentoring is also central to my professional philosophy. At the UNT System College of Pharmacy (SCOP), I have made fundamental contributions to the teaching mission of the school in pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmaceutical calculations and medicinal chemistry. I was the inaugural course director of Pharmaceutics I (PHAR7313) and Pharmaceutics II (PHAR7323), and these courses have been established under my leadership and guidance. I have also conceived and taught the medicinal chemistry section of Integrated Pharmacotherapy, Principles of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology (PHAR7232). For all of my classes, I create comprehensive teaching materials specifically tailoring chemistry-related, highly conceptual topics to the need of pharmacy students. My teaching philosophy is simple: I am the facilitator who directs students in the learning process. This requires from me mastery of the subjects, so I can make judgment as to what are the important concepts and what is the best way of relating these to pharmacy practice, optimal patient care and counseling.
Professional activities & awards:
I am a member of the American Chemical Society. I have served on the editorial board of numerous journals. I have been the academic editor of a successful special issue devoted to neuroprotection in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, and have long served as journal and grant reviewer. I am an inventor in several patents pertaining to the field of translational medicine, drug discovery and site-specific drug delivery. I am an award-winning scientist and pharmacy educator within SCOP; for example, I am the first recipient of UNT SCOP Faculty Achievement Award that was awarded by my peers in recognition of excellence in academic activities.
Our interests have been on innovative, multidisciplinary and highly-complex projects focusing on medicinal chemistry-driven drug design and delivery into the central nervous system. These activities have been conducted in successful and productive research collaborations primarily with Laszlo Prokai, Ph.D., D.Sc., with drug discovery and translational medicine in mind. Our projects involve pharmacokinetics, metabolism and drug distribution studies in early-phase drug discovery and the development of neuroactive/neuroprotective agents. We not only design but also synthesize complex organic and peptide-based (pro)drug leads, and employ in silico predictions of physicochemical parameters important to select lead compounds for preclinical assessments, as well as biopharmaceutical analyses together with various neurochemical/pharmacological paradigms useful for monitoring of CNS-delivery of agents. The projects have been supported by the National Institute of Health (NIH), and I have participated in these research activities in various capacities, including as the Principal Investigator. My very recent NIH/NEI R01 grant entitled “A Novel Neuroprotective Approach for Glaucoma” is the first and thus far the only R01 grant by a faculty whose academic home was the SCOP’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the time of the award (https://www.unthsc.edu/newsroom/story/storya-potential-game-changer-for-eye-disease/).
I have numerous publications within the fields of medicinal/organic and analytical chemistry, drug delivery, pharmaceutical analyses and mass-spectrometry based proteomics. A best testimony of success by our lab has been published very recently in Science Translational Medicine. This seminal paper describes the very first brain-selective delivery of estrogens based on a unique bioprecursor prodrug approach we developed. Other notable journals in which I have published include Nature Protocols, Analytical Chemistry, Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry, Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, Molecular Pharmaceutics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Journal of Medicinal Chemistry and Journal of Mass Spectrometry.