Adam Cohen

Prof. Adam Cohen, professor of clinical pharmacology, Centre for Human Drug Research, Leiden, Netherlands

What do you do? and what is a typical week for you?What do you do? and what is a typical week for you?

I am the CEO of the Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR) a clinical research unit that we started in Leiden University Medical Centre as an independent non-profit Foundation in 1987. We have somehow managed to become one of the largest units in Europe without shareholders or the need for external capital. We believe that the role of a clinical pharmacologist in drug research is to develop innovative methodology to evaluate the relation between dose and effect. At CHDR we do this in all therapeutic areas, supported by our self-generated research budget.

We have also decided that we want to do increasing numbers of self-generated trials in a mono-centre fashion rather than participate in multi-centre trials run by others. So our patient work ranges from Huntingdon’s disease through Parkinson’s, depression, oncology to asthma and other pulmonary diseases.

My typical week consists of coaching researchers, writing scientific papers, advice to biotech and big pharma companies, some management and finance and one day of clinical patient care in nephrology. Besides all this I am actively involved in education of all the different types of students in our medical school and university. I think it is important to be involved in education as a scientist.

What qualifications and experience do you have?

I have a degree in pharmacy but also a medical degree and trained in clinical pharmacology and therapeutics at the Wellcome Research Laboratories in Beckenham (which was subsequently merged with GSK) and internal medicine in King’s College in London. Other than in CHDR I have been vice-chair of the Netherlands Competent Authority for clinical trials and the Central Ethics Committee (CCMO) and a range of other committees which luckily have not deviated me too much into meeting rooms. I am Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

What’s the most interesting aspect of your job?

I enjoy every part of my job, even the management aspects. The big plus of our specialty is that you can combine a deep focus on some research topics whilst also experience the stimulation of working multidisciplinary.

What are your research interests?

  • Because you cannot develop medicines without measurements of their effects my primary interest is in methodology to quantify drug effects, preferably by studying (patho) physiology.
  • Home trials using apps and wearables and pharmacokinetics using non-invasive fluid collection

What one piece of advice would you give to someone seeking a career in clinical pharmacology?

Be T shaped! This means that you have to be interested in narrow areas and willing to understand them deeply (The vertical part of the T) but flexible and broad in your knowledge base to advise on and understand the work of other people (The horizontal part of the T).