Although Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Hala Fadda did not start working at Butler University until 2011, she entered the University with a passion for learning, research, and collaboration. All qualities that embody what it means to be a Butler Bulldog.
“I knew Butler was a great school with an excellent pharmacy program,” Fadda said. “I came here for the interview and was impressed with the dedication and passion of the students. I thought to myself, ‘I would like to be a part of this—part of educating the next generation of pharmacy students at Butler.”
Upon starting at Butler, Fadda immediately reached out to gastroenterologist Dr. Monika Fischer at the IU School of Medicine to begin a variety of research projects to understand drug absorption in health and disease.
The ongoing research focuses on drug absorption, transit times, and motility patterns of our gastrointestinal tract in different patient populations, utilizing tools such as a Capsule endoscopy (camera capsule). Capsule endoscopy is a powerful tool for imaging the gut which is used in the investigation of gastrointestinal disorders.
“We came up with the idea to look at how this camera capsule transits through the gut—to see the path and examine how fast, or how slow it goes through. We are particularly interested in the small intestine as this is the part of our gut where most drug absorption takes place,” Fadda said.
From these studies, Fadda and her collaborators were able to determine that transit times of tablets are highly variable between patients.
“Transit times can range from 50 to 460 minutes. That is a huge variability,” Fadda said. “It was previously thought that small intestinal transit is uniform across patients. We also showed that patients with ulcerative colitis and active Crohn’s disease have longer small intestinal transit times compared to non-inflammatory bowel disease patients. This helps us understand the differences in drug absorption between different patient populations.”
Fadda and her team of PharmD and graduate research students at Butler have utilized this new knowledge to set up a bench-top model in one of the labs at Butler to simulate the stomach and small intestine.
“In this model we are mimicking pH transitions and fluid flow in our gut to understand how medicines behave in our body. All this research will help improve the testing and design of new medicines with improved therapeutic efficacy and reduced side effects,” Fadda said. “Ultimately, the goal is to develop better medicines for our patients.”
Working with a multi-disciplinary research team comprised of both researchers and students, is enriching and allows one to gain new perspectives and ideas and share the latest research findings in the classroom.
“I’m able to tell my students that there is no such thing as the average individual, and there is no such thing as the average patient. It is important for students to appreciate the variability between different patient populations. Eventually, they are going to apply this knowledge to enhance patient’s lives and make a difference.”