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Rob van Wijk has won the oral presentations of the National PhD Competition during the FIGON Dutch Medicine Days

He presented his PhD research entitled “Kick-starting drug development; translational systems pharmacology using innovative zebrafish experiments and advanced computational modelling”. During his presentation, Rob highlighted the advancements he made in using zebrafish as model in system pharmacology.

In drug development, computer models are used to quantify the interaction between a drug and an organism or patient to predict the drug effect in the clinic and for example to determine the dose. The more relevant pathways are included in the model, the more reliable the prediction. These systems pharmacology models however need large amounts of data that are unlikely to result from clinical trials or traditional animal experiments. Experiments with very small zebrafish larvae might solve this challenge, but first it needs to be explored how comparable these larvae behave in respect to higher vertebrates, including humans. By treating them with paracetamol and developing a method to draw blood samples from these small larvae and quantify paracetamol concentrations by very sensitive LCMS, paracetamol clearance – an important process relevant for drug dosing – could be determined computationally, which successfully compared to higher vertebrates, including humans. Additionally, a method was developed to quantify tumour volume and shape in a zebrafish disease model for neuroblastoma – a developmental tumour responsible for 15% of cancer deaths in children – based on 3D fluorescence microscopy and computational tomography, the technique behind CT-scans. With this combination of innovative experiments and computational modelling, the zebrafish can deliver on its promise and help move drug development forward.

Paola Mian and Tasia Amelia won Best Poster Prices

Tasia Amelia is a PhD student at the Drug Discovery and Safety division supervised by Ad IJzerman. Her poster was titled ‘Revealing the activation mechanism of human adenosine A2A receptor by non-ribose ligands’. Paola Mian is a PhD student at the Systems Biomedicine and Pharmacology division co-supervised by Catherijne Knibbe (Leiden University) and Dick Tibboel (Erasmus MC). Her poster was titled ‘Estimation of acetaminophen efficacy and hepatotoxicity throughout pregnancy using physiology-based pharmacokinetic modeling’.


(from left to right: prof. dr. Erik Frijlink (handed out the prizes), Paola Mian (guest PhD candidate supervised by Catherijne Knibbe, furthermore working at Erasmus MC), Tasia Amelia (PhD candidate with Ad IJzerman) and four other prize winners

LACDR congratulates Rob, Tasia and Paola with these prizes!

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