Alumni Spotlight: Harit Nandani, Drug Development

Graduate Harit Nandani Credits Master’s Program in Drug Development for His Success

Clinical trials data management and technology expert Harit Nandani has seen his career surge in the five years since graduating from the University of Cincinnati (UC). He credits the university’s drug development master’s program for the confidence boost he needed to succeed. “Having a graduate degree lends credibility,” Harit says. “It’s an advantage whether you’re applying for new jobs or to academic programs in the future.”

Alumni Spotlight: Harit Nandani, Drug Development
Harit Nandani graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, where he studied clinical research and drug development.

Harit’s time at UC was so memorable that he recently felt compelled to email his professor and mentor, Dr. Pankaj Desai, Master of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Drug Development professor and program director, writing:

The experience from the program gave me the confidence to be successful in the San Francisco Bay area. I currently work as Director of Clinical Data Management at GRAIL, managing a team of seven working across the US and UK (also working with the NHS). I’ve acquired industry experience over the last 12 years (including three years prior to starting the MSDD program) and would love to give back to the program in any way I can.

Dr. Desai says he was thrilled to hear from Harit, saying it made his day. He replied to Harit and congratulated him on what’s been an impressive progression in the pharmaceutical and clinical trials industry.

“I enjoyed working at my own pace at UC. And over the two years of my studies, I became good friends with my classmates. We keep in touch and reminisce about the fun times we shared.”

– Harit Nandani, Master of Science Graduate

Fond Memories of Studying at UC

Harit’s back story illustrates how he’s accomplished so much so quickly. After receiving his undergrad from Ohio State in 2011, Harit relocated to Cincinnati. He started a career in data management for Medpace, a clinical contract research organization. Harit worked on exciting projects and soon decided to get a master’s degree to advance his education. He researched programs and chose UC’s Master’s in Clinical Research and Drug Development, studying on campus. (Today, the program is entirely online and is called MS Pharm Sci: Drug Development.)

“I enjoyed working at my own pace at UC,” Harit says. “And over the two years of my studies, I became good friends with my classmates. We keep in touch and reminisce about the fun times we shared.”

Harit recalls several standout courses, including Discovery of Drugs and Therapeutic Biologicals, Statistical Principles in Clinical Research, and Pharmaceutical Economics and Management. (See the full program curriculum here.) Harit particularly enjoyed a real-world drug development course based on Dr. Desai’s discovery of the potential of temozolomide and its promising results for a brain cancer indication. “Dr. Desai shared the development experience, the seminars he conducted, and the publication process with us,” Harit says. “I had many passionate teachers like Dr. Desai who covered a broad set of relevant topics.”

Harit says the online MSDD program will require a few work-life balance concessions. He recommends students prepare for some challenges and compromises along the way. Harit suggests committing 15 to 20 hours per week for school and letting your manager know about the program to see if there is work-schedule flexibility. “There are new content and concepts to learn. You’ll need to allocate time in the evenings and weekends to work on homework,” Harit says. “Be sure to connect with other students to share methods and ideas and build relationships.”

One program takeaway Harit would share with prospective students is how it will help them understand the full scope of a clinical trial. “The program provided practical contextual knowledge and opened my mind to cross-functional initiatives and projects,” he says. “At work, I’m involved in the data aspects, but there are other areas, like operations and trial safety. At UC, you learn about every step of a clinical trial, and it was helpful to explore the various areas.”

“(The MSDD program) bridges the gap between theoretical and practical in the right context. It gives you the opportunity to dive into the industry, learn as a team, and be successful quickly.”

– Harit Nandani, Master of Science Graduate

New Life, New Love on the West Coast

During a 2014 road trip to California, Harit decided to relocate there. After graduating in May 2015, he packed up and headed west to start a new life in northern California. He found work as a senior clinical data management associate in oncology for Gilead Sciences, a biotechnology research firm.

In October 2017, Harit joined GRAIL, where he works today; it’s a healthcare company on a mission to detect cancer early. He worked his way up to a director position, overseeing the clinical data management area. “I manage teams that work on end-to-end data acquisition and processing for large, population-scale studies,” he says. “These have generated clinical evidence for a multi-cancer early cancer detection test.” Using clinical evidence from some of the trials that Harit contributed to, GRAIL launched the Galleri test in 2021, the first-of-its-kind, multi-cancer early detection test that looks for many cancers not commonly screened for today.

Harit’s move to California also played a role in meeting the woman who would become his wife. Today, they enjoy the beautiful, sunny weather and home renovations. In his free time, Harit likes to cycle and has used his favorite form of exercise to raise money. “There’s a 550-mile, HIV/AIDS research bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles,” he says. “It spans seven days, and I raised nearly $4,000 for the organization.”

Thinking back on this time at UC and his recent email exchange with Dr. Desai, Harit sees his graduate program experience as the catalyst to succeed in a competitive landscape like San Francisco. He believes there’s no better stepping stone for those in the pharmaceutical science drug development field than UC Online’s MS Pharm Sci: Drug Development (MSDD). He says, “The program bridges the gap between theoretical and practical in the right context. It gives you the opportunity to dive into the industry, learn as a team, and be successful quickly.”

Faculty Spotlight Desai
Get to know Dr. Pankaj Desai, Director of Drug Development for the
University of Cincinnati Online, in this faculty spotlight article.

The UC Online Difference

Is a pharmacy-focused graduate program something you’ve been considering? UC Online’s three programs will be of interest to you. We offer the MSDD program and two graduate certificates, Clinical Trials Design & Research and Global Regulatory Affairs in Drug Development.

These programs are:

  • 100% online and asynchronous, with curriculum available 24/7
  • Aligned with UC’s renowned James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy
  • Designed to fit the lifestyles of busy working adults
  • Open to part-time and full-time students

When you choose one of these UC Online programs, you’re connected to nationally recognized faculty with deep industry knowledge unmatched in the drug development industry. Collectively, our university’s programs are ranked among the best in the U.S.

Contact us online to learn more about the MSDD or certificate programs, and an Enrollment Services Advisor will be in touch.

A fulfilling journey into drug development science can give you the momentum to improve your practical skills, broaden your clinical trial knowledge, and jumpstart your career. Our UC Online team will be here to support you on your journey, from admission to graduation, to help you achieve success.

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