Nation's First Degree with Focus in Pharmacometrics, One of Drug Industry's Highest-Paying Fields, Offered at UB

Release Date: January 30, 2002

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The nation's first master's degree program in pharmaceutics with a focus in pharmacometrics, a new field that fuses pharmacologic studies with computational and statistical methods of data analysis, has been developed at the University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The field of pharmacometrics involves the analysis and interpretation of data produced in preclinical and clinical trials, much of which now is generated through new computationally intensive tools, such as bioinformatics.

This new program focus comes just in time to meet an explosion of demand in the pharmaceutical industry, said William J. Jusko, Ph.D., professor, interim chair of the UB Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the program's founder.

"Because of skyrocketing demand, this area of pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic pharmacometrics offers some of the highest entry-level salaries in the entire pharmaceutical industry," said Jusko.

Entry-level pharmaceutical scientists with a pharmacometrics background are being hired for as much as $80,000 per year and, because companies want to retain these people, pay raises tend to be generous, Jusko said.

As the international leader in two areas on which pharmacometrics is based -- pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics (UB emeritus professor Gerhard Levy is considered the father of pharmacodynamics) -- the UB Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Jusko explained, has developed a solid curriculum to form the basis of the new program focus.

"Pharmacometrics lies at the heart of what drug companies do, collecting data from animals, normal volunteers and patients, quantifying it and then being able to determine what those data mean for optimizing drug efficacy and minimizing toxicity."

According to Jusko, pharmacometrics, which requires proficiency in mathematical, computational and statistical methods, as well as in pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic modeling, involves the interpretation of diverse types of data relating to the disposition and effects of a particular drug, often in large populations of patients, on the order of hundreds or even thousands.

He noted that while intensive and detailed studies of small groups of individual patients (groups as small as from 12 to 20) still provide the most complete picture of a drug's essential properties, the much larger studies provide important information as well.

"These population studies involve taking a small amount of information from a large number of patients -- hundreds or even thousands -- and summarizing the main factors that affect their exposures and responses to a drug," he said. "The question they are designed to answer is, what are any special characteristics that show up when a particular drug is taken by the broad patient population for whom it is being designed?"

Population studies are designed to answer that question based on just one or two measurements, say, of the blood concentration of a drug.

Individuals skilled in pharmacometrics know how to properly analyze and interpret those data to determine, for example, whether or not a particular drug is metabolized differently by one or another race, gender, age group (young, elderly) or those taking other drugs.

The new master's degree focus fuses the relevant courses at UB into an intensive program for pharmacometrics, one that most students will be able to complete in just one year.

Applicants should be interested in the computational aspects of pharmaceutical research and should have at least a bachelor's degree in pharmaceutics, pharmacy, pharmacology, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, mathematics, statistics or another suitable discipline.

A program in advanced pharmacometrics at the post-graduate level now is under development at UB, Jusko said.

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