An interview with 2022's journal ECR prizewinners

The British Journal of Pharmacology (BJP) and the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (BJCP) award annual prizes for the best papers published by early career researchers over the previous year. Awardees receive a cash prize, a certificate and one year of complimentary membership to the British Pharmacological Society. 

This year, senior editors reviewed 30 shortlisted applicants and selected three winners for the prize. This year’s winners are: 

We asked our winning authors some questions about their work. 

What are the key points of your article and their implications? 

Asbjørn: Our research indicates that calcium-activated potassium (KCa3.1) channels plays a crucial role in the development of pulmonary oedema and hypoxaemia following an acute lung injury. Thus, KCa3.1 could be a promising therapeutic target in the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a disease where effective pharmacotherapy remains extremely limited.  

Arnim: In our respective cross-sectional study, we studied the relationship between 25-OH vitamin D serum concentrations, concentrations of different antipsychotic drugs and psychopathology in patients with schizophrenia. As one of our main findings, we observed a negative correlation between vitamin D and antipsychotic drug concentrations - patients who had higher (or sufficient) vitamin D levels exhibited lower serum concentrations of their antipsychotic medication which was particularly pronounced for drugs metabolized by cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4. We also applied a structural equation model which suggested that vitamin D may be beneficial for both positive (hallucinations or delusions) and negative symptoms (affective flattening, social withdrawal) in schizophrenia, but the beneficial effect on positive symptoms is counteracted by its negative effect on antipsychotic drug exposure. Therefore, clinicians might consider therapeutic drug monitoring if they start vitamin D supplementation in patients, particularly those treated with substrates of CYP3A4 to guide dose adjustment. 

David: A patient's glomerular filtration rate is of interest, for example to inform dosing regimen adjustments of drugs which are predominantly renally eliminated. Although prediction of glomerular filtration via prediction methods such the CKD-EPI formula is commonplace in non-obese individuals, applicability of such prediction methods in obese individuals remains a matter of debate. In our article, we leveraged plasma concentration-time data of a drug subject to glomerular filtration drug in patients over a broad body mass range to suggest several prediction methods which demonstrate lowest bias and highest precision in the prediction of renal function in obese and morbidly obese patients.  

What excites you about pharmacology? 

Asbjørn: I am thrilled by the translational aspects of pharmacology where basic science is used to produce applicable results that may directly benefit human health.  

Arnim: Pharmacology is very exciting to me as it connects different disciplines such as chemistry, biochemistry, physiology and clinical medicine, and its findings may lead to better treatment of patients. 

David: I am intrigued by the opportunities to make more rational decisions, for example on the choice of a particular dosing regimen of a drug based on mechanistic understanding of the patient-drug-disease interaction. Here, integration of data from multiple sources (in vitro, in vivo, clinical data) is necessary, which requires collaboration between various disciplines within and outside the field of pharmacology, requiring and allowing a continuous learning process.  

What are you currently working on? Take us through a typical day in your life. 

Asbjørn: I am currently employed as a research scientist in a company offering pre-clinical contract research. Here, I design and conduct in vivo pharmacology studies in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders. Moreover, I oversee the development of new rodent models as well as method optimization to support the company’s growing portfolio. 

Arnim: I am a trainee in psychiatry, and I am currently working in a neurological outpatient clinic of our university hospital, dedicated to the treatment of mentally or physically disabled people. Fortunately, I also have some time slots which I may use for research. Besides projects related to clinical pharmacology, a major part of my research focuses on EEG and fMRI endophenotypes related to certain molecular pathomechanisms of schizophrenia as well as iPSC-derived cellular models of schizophrenia. 

David: I am currently working as a pharmacometrician in drug development within oncology. This includes model-based integration of preclinical and clinical data to characterise the exposure-response and exposure-safety relationship. Especially in early clinical drug development, leveraging well-understood mechanistic principles (e.g. based on preclinical data) can greatly enhance the generated knowledge from valuable patient data. 

What are the biggest challenges you have faced? 

Asbjørn: After finishing my PhD, I was faced with the challenge of either continuing in academia or moving into the private sector. While I enjoyed my time at the university, the dependency on external funding to do research was a drawback. I decided to apply for a position outside of academia to pursue a career within in vivo pharmacology though it meant moving to a new city.     

Arnim: It is always a challenge to find the appropriate amount of time for the many different research projects I am involved in while also working in the clinics and find the right work-life balance. Within research, the greatest challenge was associated with the decision to include ‘wet’ laboratory work into my methodological repertoire after some years of rather computationally or clinically oriented science. On the one hand, I had to learn many new techniques (which I am still doing) and on the other hand it was also difficult to convince reviewers of grant proposals that I can lead such projects. But it was a great decision which brought some fascinating new perspectives to my research activity. 

David: Especially for an early career researcher, the start of an academic track record can be challenging. Receiving support and advice from senior researchers and mentors proved extremely valuable in my case. Knowledge was always generously shared by such experienced researchers, and I hope to support the new generations of researchers in the same way in the future. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

Asbjørn: I like to spend time with family and friends, play boardgames and going for a run.  

Arnim: I like walking in nature, travelling, meeting friends, playing with my nephews and playing music. 

David: I like to do sports (running and body weight exercises), which is great to reset the brain after an intense day of work.  

What’s next for you, and what do you hope to achieve over the course of your career? 

Asbjørn: I hope to continue a career within the field of preclinical and translation science. This will allow me to bring new innovative drugs closer to clinical usage – an element that highly motivates me in my work. 

Arnim: In the future, I would like to continue working as a clinician scientist which feels like my vocation. But I hope to have more time for research available in the future and find a position in which my clinical and scientific work perfectly support each other (i.e. my patients take part in my research and my research may directly be translated into a better treatment of my patients) 

David: Since drug development is complex and requires a broad knowledge of various disciplines, my primary goal at the moment is to learn as much as possible in my new occupation in pharmaceutical industry. At the same time, I aim to continue my contribution to scientific progress through publication. 

Learn more about the BJP Annual Prize for Early Career Researchers/Independent Research Fellows and the BJCP Prize


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Published: 04 May 2023

About the author

Asbjørn Graver Petersen

Asbjørn was awarded a PhD at Aarhus University, before becoming a research scientist in the Pharmacology section at Gubra in Denmark.   

Arnim Johannes Gaebler

Arnim works as a physician in the department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics in the university hospital of RWTH Aachen University, Germany. Moreover, he is a postdoctoral researcher in the same department as well as in the institute of Physiology 

David Busse

David graduated from the Graduate Research Training Program "PharMetrX" and currently works as pharmacometrician in drug development at Boehringer Ingelheim. 



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