News

What Is Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics and Clinical Evaluation?

 LaneBrunner
 

 

Dr. Lane J. Brunner
University of Texas at Austin
 

 

Questions:
 

1) If you had to explain your fields of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and clinical evaluation to a 4th grade science class, what would you say? 

2) What is the overall goal of your field? 

3) What are some of the landmark achievements in pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and clinical evaluation to this date? 

4) What is a typical day like for you? 

5) What part of your job do you like best? 

5b) What is the most challenging? 

6) What achievement at work are you most proud of? 

7) What type of educational background does your field require? 

8) How would you direct someone into your line of work? 

8b) Any tips to help them get their foot in the door? 

9) Is there anything you wish you would have known about your field prior to choosing it as your career? 

 

Q 1) If you had to explain your fields of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and clinical evaluation to a 4th grade science class, what would you say? 

A) “Scientists working in pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and clinical evaluation study how medications work in your body. We use math to help us understand how medications are absorbed into the body, what happens when the medications are there, and how your body gets rid of them.”

Back to top 
 

Q 2) What is the overall goal of your field? 

A) “One of our major goals is to develop better methods to predict the disposition of medications. This would enable clinicians not only to improve how medications work in the body, but also how to decrease the occurrence of unwanted medication side effects. As scientists, we are developing more sophisticated methods for delivering drugs into the body and targeting specific sites at which we want the drugs to work. We are also using novel methods for modeling how drugs behave in the body. Our biggest challenge, and the most promising area of research, is the idea of developing personalized medicine. Through our better understanding of the human genome and the individuality of a patient’s response to medications, we are able to advance our knowledge of how to tailor a medication’s use on a personal level.”

Back to top 
 

Q 3) What are some of the landmark achievements in pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and clinical evaluation to this date? 

A) “The landmark achievements in the last couple of decades have really focused around the use of emerging technologies. The fundamentals of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics have been well understood from a theoretical standpoint for dozens of years. It was with the introduction of the digital computer in the 1960’s and the subsequent development of applications in the following years that allowed scientists to investigate the relationship between drug concentrations, drug effect, and time. Now, with the availability of sophisticated computer programs, we are able to use smaller amounts of data to predict drug therapy in individual patients. We are better able to use the sparse data from a population of patients to develop guidelines for dosing medications to an individual. Of course, along with these advances in numerical type analysis has come the ability to measure drug concentrations at increasingly lower levels. This ability to detect smaller and smaller drug amounts gives us a better ability to describe the time course of the drug in the body and its corresponding effects. An additional tool for understanding drug effects is our ability to measure drug concentrations at a specific site, such as where the drug acts or the toxicity occurs. Although some of these new techniques are still primarily for research rather than for every day patient use, it does provide an exciting glimpse of what the future is for our field.”

Back to top 
 

Q 4) What is a typical day like for you? 

A) “As an academician, no day is a typical day. Someone who is in a clinical setting, such as a clinical pharmacist or someone who practices clinical pharmacology, may have a standard progression of events that occurs during the day — you may go on rounds with patients in the morning, discuss medical treatments with patients or colleagues, conduct follow-up medical tests, etc. But since I’m in an academic position, I don’t really have a typical day. Our responsibilities range so much, from directing research projects, to teaching, to committee work, that a ‘usual day’ may not actually exist.”

Back to top 
 

Q 5) What part of your job do you like best? 

A) “ It’s tough for me to choose one specific area because I really love my job. Probably the best part of the job for me is when I am faced with a novel scientific problem. This situation can occur from almost anywhere, whether it is an ongoing project or a research study to answer a new question. It is very similar to solving a puzzle for which you rely on your education, experience and training. Also, you get the privilege of working on this puzzle with other scientists, and especially the young enthusiastic scientists that we have as students in our laboratories - that’s the most fun part of the job.”

Back to top 

Q 5b) What is the most challenging? 

A) “My answer will have to be the same as what’s the most enjoyable--answering those novel scientific problems. While it is the part of my job I like best, it is also the most challenging when the problem is either one that no one else has approached before- which is quite common when you are developing a new drug- or when you are part of a team that has developed a drug that may be used in ways that nobody has anticipated. The real challenge comes when we are faced with studying how we can take this new medicine and deliver it in the best way for the patient, while making sure it has the least amount of side effects and yet still has the efficacy that is needed.”

Back to top 
 

Q 6) What achievement at work are you most proud of? 

A) “I am most proud of building a research program where undergraduate and graduate students can learn how to be better scientists. It is a real privilege to be able to work with some of these young minds and to have them graduate from our lab and work as scientists as part of other research teams.”

Back to top 
 

Q 7) What type of educational background does your field require? 

A) “The field requires graduate education in pharmaceutics up to and including a Ph.D. Also, postdoctoral fellowship work is advantageous.”

Back to top 
 

Q 8) How would you direct someone into your line of work? 

A) “The undergraduate degree should be in one of the sciences such as chemistry, biology or even pharmacy. The graduate education should be in a particular field such as pharmacology or pharmaceutics. After the Ph.D., the education and training should include a postdoctoral fellowship. After finishing a Ph.D. and postdoctoral work, the person is really trained to be an independent scientist. But this takes time, I spent 15 years after high school getting to the point where I got my first job as an independent scientist.”

Back to top 
 

Q 8b) Any tips to help them get their foot in the door? 

A) “Students should emphasize studies in math and science, which are the very important to the field. I also recommend working in a research lab at a local medical center, university, or even a pharmaceutical company. As you get more experience in a lab you may want to seek out different internships at pharmaceutical companies or work full time in a lab during the summer. This will give you a larger perspective on pharmaceutical research. The best tip I can give someone who is interested in becoming a pharmaceutical scientist is to gain as much experience as possible in a research lab. It helps the student develop an eye for experimental techniques and allows the person to experience the rigorous environment of a basic science research lab. Not only would that assist you in your scientific growth, but it will also be another mechanism to distinguish yourself from other students who wish to be in the same field.”

Back to top 

Q 9) Is there anything you wish you would have known about your field prior to choosing it as your career? 

A) “I wish I would have better understood how math could be used to explore biology and chemistry. One of the areas that seem to frighten our students the most is mathematics. I wish that I would have had a clearer explanation of the relationship between mathematics, biology and chemistry throughout my education because it would have made the field much more interesting. If students can appreciate earlier in their education and career how math is used routinely in the biomedical sciences, they will actually develop an enjoyment for the field a lot earlier.”

Back to top