Julia Kirchheiner, a professor of Clinical Pharmacology at the Institute of Natural Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Ulm, in Germany, was awarded the Utrecht Award for Excellence in Pharmaceutical Research, 2009. The international prize is awarded once every two years to non-University of Utrecht scientists who have a proven record over years of excellent research vision and leadership of improving drug therapy or safety.
Pharmacogenetics focuses on the investigation of the influence of innate factors on the transport, degradation and hence the efficacy of drugs in individual patients.
Julia Kirchheiner, who has been working at the University of Ulm since 2006, has undertaken numerous studies during the course of her research at the Institute of Natural Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology to test the effect of anti-depressants and anti-diabetes drugs on patients with different genetic make-ups. The scientist is also focusing on pharmacogenetics-based dose recommendations for psychopharmaceuticals and anti-cancer drugs, amongst others.
In addition, Kirchheiner is investigating whether changes in the blood picture, which might be the result of anti-cancer drugs, are stronger in patients with a particular genetic make-up. For example, some cancer patients experience a strong reduction in the number of white and red blood cells, which results in a high risk of contracting infections such as pneumonia.
The time required by blood cells to recover from the therapy and the decrease in the risk of contracting infections varies from patient to patient. Kirchheiner hopes that her research will contribute to a more effective prediction of the length of recovery time for individual patients as well as offering protection against infections.