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Liesbeth de Lange wins Lewis B. Sheiner Career Prize

Pharmacologist Liesbeth de Lange has won the Lewis B. Sheiner Lecturer Award from the International Society of Pharmacometrics (ISoP). As Professor of Predictive Pharmacology she is working, among other things, on a mathematical model that can predict drug concentrations in the brain. On the occasion of the award, De Lange gave a lecture at the opening of the annual ISoP meeting on 9 November.

Cracking complex codes

De Lange had an important message for the public. ‘I wanted to emphasise that complex issues cannot be answered with simple tests. I always compare it to a game of Mastermind: Nature is made up of codes and we researchers have to crack them in order to understand its complexity.’

A good example of this is De Lange's research into medicines in the brain. ‘The brain has always fascinated me,’ she says. ‘I've been committed to the treatment of brain diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's for years. Our group is translating the processes in our brains into mathematical models.’ De Lange is not held back by complexity and that has led to innovative and useful insights. Based on years of structured research, she and her colleagues created the so-called brain distribution model: a kind of navigation system that predicts whether and how a medicine reaches its destination in the brain, and what turns it could take.

Lewis B. Sheiner

The lifetime achievement award is named after Dr Lewis B. Sheiner, a pioneer in pharmacology. He was one of the first to use mathematical and statistical methods to solve problems in the field. By using models to develop drugs and to test their efficacy and safety, Sheiner created a qualitative method for improving drug development.

Ferrari of pharmacology

De Lange sees the Lewis Sheiner Prize as an enormous recognition and appreciation for her modelling research and the special Mastermind research method she uses. ‘The fact that it is a lifetime achievements award makes it extra special’, she says. ‘I feel greatly honoured.’

Pharmacologist Pete Bonate is Executive Director Clinical Pharmacology and Exploratory Development at Astellas Pharma in the US and has been friends with De Lange for at least 20 years. He nominated her for the award and introduced her during the Award Session of the ISoP meeting. Bonate calls De Lange's accomplishments very impressive and praises her way of researching.

Bonate: ‘In the time we got to know each other, we did similar research. Only I drove a T-ford, and she drove a Ferrari. She was a modern man, and I was a caveman. I really wanted to get to know her'. In the end, they published together. De Lange is not only a great scientist but also a strong propagate of the value of modelling and simulation for pharmacology. Her research has revolutionised the way we look at the distribution of drugs in the brain. ISoP could not have chosen a better winner.’

De Lange with postdoc Frédérique Kok

Tailor-made models

The brain model may be a highlight of her career, De Lange is not done yet. ‘The next goal is to make disease-specific variants of our models. So a model specifically for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, chronic pain and so on. After that, it would be wonderful if we could make 'tailor-made' models for individual patients. We are now working hard to achieve that.’ De Lange's group is also engaged in unravelling the processes that play a role in the onset and course of Alzheimer's disease. ‘In this way, I hope to contribute not only to treatment, but also to the prevention of life-determining brain diseases.’

The research of Liesbeth de Lange

Liesbeth de Lange obtained her Master's degree in Chemistry in Groningen, with a specialisation in Biophysical Chemistry. At the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research she obtained her PhD in Pharmacology. She currently leads the research group Predictive Pharmacology within the Systems Biomedicine & Pharmacology department. Her aim is to adequately predict the effects of drugs in individuals using predictive pharmacological approaches, such as computer models.
In total, De Lange has published no less than 130 scientific articles, often frequently cited by colleagues. In 2020, she received an honorary doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of Uppsala.

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