I studied pharmacy at the University of Tuebingen , so I was exposed to some pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics – understanding what a model is, and so on. But I was heading in a very different direction. I was on track for a career in research, doing an internship at Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ridgefield campus in the US. Then my career path changed.
I was watching a talk about an in-silico cell (involving computer modelling and experimentation). I was fascinated, saying to myself, “Why didn’t I study bioinformatics?” That’s when a colleague said, “But you’re a pharmacist – I know a pharmacist who does exactly this. You can do those models.” Soon after that, I began a PhD in the field of pharmacometrics, and I haven’t looked back since.
I joined Boehringer Ingelheim nine years ago, after my PhD. It was a surprising decision for me because unlike many of my colleagues, I was born in Biberach – my father even worked for Boehringer Ingelheim! I always expected to move to a bigger city, but ultimately I chose to make my career here because I wanted to have a direct impact working as a standing member in a clinical development team, I wanted an open, sharing culture, and most of all, I wanted to be able to impact decisions.
“Ultimately I chose to make my career here because I wanted to work in a clinical development team, I wanted an open, sharing culture, and most of all, I wanted to be able to impact decisions.”
I now lead a team of pharmacometricians at Boehringer Ingelheim’s Biberach campus. We develop mathematical models that describe clinical data, linking pharmacokinetics, i.e. what the body does with a drug, with pharmacodynamics, i.e. looking at what particular compounds do to the body. If you swallow a tablet, what happens? How long does it stay in the blood? How does it distribute throughout the body? How is it eliminated? And then the second part – what effects does the compound produce, both in terms of efficacy and safety?
With these models, we aim to contribute and influence decisions about dose selection and study design as we add to the understanding of why patients react differently to the same medication. We’re involved from early clinical drug development all the way up to submission and beyond, supporting ‘POCP’ – proof of clinical principle. This means we’re responsible for taking medicine to humans, ensuring it works, and understanding our compound when it comes to exposure-response relationships and the right dose selection. This way, we go into our big international trials with all the information we need.
In a lot of other companies, pharmacometricians are there to do analysis. You’re given a question, you do the modelling, and you hand it back. But very seldom are you involved in broader strategic discussions. At BI pharmacometricians have a ‘seat at the table’ – the chance to help identify the question, then shape the strategy and the clinical development programme.
What I like most about my work is that it’s so varied. I have a very diverse team in terms of experience and technical knowledge, and each team member works on two to three projects. So that gives me around 15 to 20 projects I’m exposed to on an ongoing basis. Every project is different, and I’ve never applied the same model twice, so there’s always something new to discover.
If you’re considering taking a new path, we’d love to hear from you – Boehringer Ingelheim is hiring!