Director hired for national cannabis research facility in Mississippi

Published 7:45 am Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has hired Robert Welch, a 2002 alumnus, as director of the school’s National Center for Cannabis Research and Education.

“I am excited about Dr. Welch’s leadership and his passion for the work,” said Donna Strum, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “His experience in both pharmacy and business will help the center develop strategic partnerships to serve the state and advance our initiatives in medical cannabis.”

The NCCRE was founded in 2022 and builds upon the work of the National Center for Natural Products Research and the pharmacy school.

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“We are happy to welcome Dr. Welch to the leadership team, as he brings valuable experience that is necessary to make this center a success,” said Ikhlas Khan, NCNPR director.

Welch earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences from the university in 2000 and his doctoral degree in 2002. Post-graduation, he completed a pharmacy practice residency before working in both hospital and retail pharmacy.

In 2008, he joined the pharmaceutical industry as a medical science liaison and worked with clinical trial sites and the medical community in various therapeutic areas, including diabetes, oncology, epilepsy and obesity.

In the last six years with Jazz Pharmaceuticals, formerly GW Pharmaceuticals, Welch worked with clinical trial sites to study the use of cannabidiol in patients with severe epilepsy syndromes.

His collaboration with epilepsy centers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Alabama Children’s Hospital and others helped garner FDA approval for the cannabidiol oral solution Epidiolex, the first plant-based cannabinoid medication to receive FDA approval.

Besides his research work with the company, he also educated medical professionals, providers, payer groups, pharmacists and advocacy organizations throughout the Southeast on the science of cannabinoids.

Welch said he looks forward to contributing to the advancement of the center’s role as a leader in the medical cannabis community.

“The National Center for Cannabis Research and Education has a unique opportunity to be at the vanguard of shaping research that will improve the new medical cannabis program for patients in Mississippi,” he said. “Importantly, the center will also take on an expanded leadership role in health professional education regarding cannabinoid science.

“It is an honor to be working for my alma mater in this endeavor, and I am excited to help build on their legacy of excellence in the science of cannabinoids.”

Welch, of Tupelo, is the immediate past president of the School of Pharmacy Alumni Board, and has served on the school’s admissions committee for the last three years.