January 2019: International Profile

Published on 1/1/2019 12:00:00 AM

Ulrika Simonsson, PhD, Professor, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

Sweden is a small country with only 10 million inhabitants and seven universities and colleges where undergraduate training is offered in clinical pharmacology. Quantitative pharmacology, which uses models to describe the fate of drugs in the body and the association to safety and efficacy, is not currently included in the curriculum in the undergraduate programs, but it can be selected as an elective undergraduate course at select universities in Sweden. Uppsala University has just started the first master's program in pharmaceutical modeling in Sweden, in which pharmacometrics is one of the disciplines. Uppsala University also hosts the largest academic pharmacometrics research group in Sweden. Dr. Simonsson is associated with this research group. At the moment, there is only one big pharmaceutical company in Sweden researching and developing drugs, AstraZeneca. Sweden hosts a large number of biotechnology companies in which translational medicine is important. In Sweden, clinical pharmacists are not routinely involved in assisting with dose selection in the clinics. Dr. Simonsson hopes that in the future this will change. She encourages Swedish physicians and pharmacists to cooperate more in the field of therapeutic drug monitoring. She hopes that Sweden will be inspired by how other neighboring countries like The Netherlands do this.

Dr. Simonsson earned both her Masters of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences and her pharmacist degree at Uppsala University. She then pursued her graduate studies and PhD at Uppsala University, specifically in the area of pharmaceutical biosciences with a focus on PKs, PDs, and pharmacometrics. She went on to a postdoctoral program at Pharsight Corporation in California, where she worked with pharmacometrics tools to assist decision making in drug development. She was serving as an assistant professor and associate professor at Uppsala University until she was promoted to full professor in PKs in 2016. Dr. Simonsson also has industrial experience. She spent a 2‐year sabbatical at AstraZeneca working as a Senior Research Scientist, where she obtained an Innovation Award for implementing quantitative pharmacology methods through pharmacometrics tools to assist phase III planning using integrated information from the entire class of compounds. She is also the cofounder and advisor at Pharmetheus, a consultancy firm offering strategic advice and hands‐on analyses across all different phases, to support drug development decisions.

For the past 18 years, Dr. Simonsson has been working on drugs for tuberculosis. Her research involves characterization of PK–PD relationships of new drugs to describe exposure and efficacy/safety and simulation of new trials. She also works in the field of quantitative pharmacology assessment to optimize the use of current registered drugs through personalized medicine. Model‐based therapeutic drug monitoring is also a research interest that has the advantage in being able to account more easily for time‐dependent changes in exposure and response as well as nonlinearities in dose–response relationships. She was leading the modeling and simulation effort within the Innovative Medicines Initiative‐funded consortium PreDiCT‐TB, consisting of 19 European universities and drug companies, which ended in October 2017. The work in her research group led to the discovery of a translational framework for prediction of efficacy of drugs in phase II trials based on preclinical information using quantitative pharmacology tools through pharmacometrics. The Quantitative Pharmacology Network selected this work to be included within the Impact and Influence Initiative during 2017 to illustrate the role played by quantitative pharmacology in influencing key decisions in the drug development process and in advancing translational medicine and therapeutics. This work was presented as a flash presentation at the ASCPT 2017 Annual Meeting during the Quantitative Pharmacology Network meeting. It was presented again during an ASCPT‐ISoP webinar in November of 2017. The tuberculosis treatment regimen often consists of at least four drugs. Exploring drug combinations is, therefore, essential. A lot of the information needs to be evaluated using preclinical experiments. New antibiotics are urgently needed for the treatment of tuberculosis because of the emerging drug resistance and the currently long treatment periods that make adherence difficult. A new interest for Dr. Simonsson is how quantitative pharmacology can move with the new digitalized area and be linked to eHealth.

ASCPT is an organization that is highly valued in the field of quantitative pharmacology and pharmacometrics in Sweden. In addition, ISoP offers the opportunity to get connected to pharmacometricians worldwide. The ASCPT and ACoP meetings attract some of the best researchers and offer presentations on some of the best scientific findings. Dr. Simonsson views these meetings as a great opportunity to meet old and new collaborators, colleagues, and friends.

Dr. Simonsson also views the ASCPT journals as a great resource. She finds the themed issues of CPT and PSP interesting. She always reads the issues to keep up with recent findings. She views PSP and Clinical and Translational Science as good complements to the ASCPT journal family. She specifically points to the increasing appreciation of PSP by the pharmacometrics community. 

Dr. Simonsson views the ASCPT webinars as a nice way to interact with scientists outside of conferences and journals. She hopes that these will be developed further and perhaps there will be more tutorials that will stimulate scientists early in their career to get more involved in ASCPT.

Dr. Simonsson became a member of ASCPT in 2017.

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