March 2020: Student/Trainee Profile

Author: [AUTHOR] Published on 3/1/2020 12:00:00 AM

Elena T. Muensterman, PharmD, PhD, Senior Clinical Pharmacokineticist II, Abbvie, Inc., Evanston, IL

Dr. Muensterman is from a little town in Northern Italy. She attended pharmacy school because she thought that a degree in pharmacy would allow her to pursue a variety of different career paths in the medical/pharmaceutical field. She attended pharmacy school at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. While there she developed a passion for clinical pharmacology. Due to the lack of clinical pharmacology programs in Europe, she knew that she needed to move to the United States to continue her education. Her goal was to find a program that would allow her to carry out clinical/translation research but at the same time also enable her to still be involved with patients. She found this program at the College of Pharmacy at Purdue University. There she studied and worked in Dr. James Tisdale’s lab. Dr. Tisdale’s research has been focused on finding effective methods to attenuate a drug‐induced QT interval prolongation. Around the time that she joined his lab, Dr. Tisdale received a grant from the American Heart Association to study the effect of testosterone and progesterone on drug‐induced QY interval prolongation in older men. By being the investigator of a human clinical trial, Dr. Muensterman was involved in every aspect of conducting clinical research: from drafting the IRB protocol, to study subject’s recruitment, data collection, and data analysis. She is very grateful to Dr. Tisdale for giving her this incredible learning opportunity and for teaching her the importance of scientific rigor. Dr. Tisdale taught her the fundamental scientific skills required to be a successful researcher. While at Purdue University, she also worked with Dr. Kevin Sowinsky as a mentor. She received excellent training in clinical pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics (PKs/PDs), which she utilized to develop a PK/PD model to identify sources of variability in response to progesterone‐mediated attenuation of drug‐induced QT interval prolongation. Dr. Muensterman also thanks Dr. Ahmed Nader from Abbvie, who has had a profound impact on her professional growth. He taught her fundamental skills on QT modeling and NONMEM. Dr. Zeruesenay Desta of Indiana University has also served as a mentor for Dr. Muensterman. He encourages her to be creative in developing her own identity as an independent researcher.

“The field of clinical pharmacology and translational medicine is most fascinating to me because it links basic and applied research to patients.” Dr. Muensterman was drawn to the field because the link allows for research in this field to be very patient focused and for faster implementation of discoveries that would benefit patients in need. Dr. Muensterman is passionate about the utilization of the novel ECG biomarkers J‐Tpeak and Tpeak‐Tend to improve cardiac safety assessment of both already approved drugs as well as drugs that are currently being developed. She believes that the measurement and utilization of these biomarkers may allow to differentiate between “predominant hERG blocker” with higher torsadogenic risk. This could reduce the incidence of torsades de pointes (TdP) in clinical practices by providing clinicians with more concrete data about the TdP risk of QT interval prolonging drugs and reduce the number of drugs in development that are terminated due to QT interval prolongation. This would improve patient care.

Indiana University’s weekly journal club introduced Dr. Muensterman to ASCPT. They discussed a paper that had been published in Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. This paper sparked her interest for alternative T‐waves measurements and novel electrocardiographic biomarkers. The article also inspired the idea behind her PhD thesis, which evolves around using ECG biomarkers J‐Tpeakc and Tpeak‐Tend to characterize the effects of sex hormones on human cardiac repolarization in the presence of a QT prolonging drug.

The 2019 Annual Meeting was Dr. Muensterman’s first ASCPT meeting. For her, the conference was a great learning experience and an outstanding networking opportunity among peers from academia, industry, and regulatory agencies. At the meeting, she met some of the most renowned clinical pharmacologists in the world. She plans to continue attending ASPT meetings because she views them as great events that not only help her grow her professional network, but also keep her up to date on the most innovative and groundbreaking research currently being conducted in clinical pharmacology.

Currently, Dr. Muensterman is working on determining the effects of methadone, a known QT prolonging drug, on early vs. late ventricular polarization. She and her team expect that methadone will lengthen late repolarization measured by the Tpeak‐Tend interval because of its inhibiting properties. She and her colleagues are also seeking to determine methadone’s impact on early repolarization measured by the J‐Tpeak interval due to some activating effect on late sodium and/or calcium current.

Dr. Muensterman has been a member of ASCPT since 2016. She received a Presidential Trainee Award at the ASCPT 2019 Annual Meeting.

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