Ask The Expert Interviews

ACCP Student Outreach Committee Interview: Lucy Lee, PharmD

Interview with the Expert This month’s Interview with the Expert is with Lucy Lee, PharmD. Dr. Lee is a clinical pharmacologist working in the pharmaceutical industry and focusing on the development of oncology targeted therapies using the principles of clinical pharmacology to develop drugs in both the early exploratory and late confirmatory phases. Dr. Lee is an active Fellow in ACCP and has participated as Faculty and chaired educational events at the ACCP Annual Meeting. We are grateful to Dr. Lee for sharing her experiences with us.

Please describe your current work/research? I am a clinical pharmacologist who works in the pharmaceutical industry. My area of focus is in the development of oncology targeted therapies. My work involves applying the principles of clinical pharmacology to strategically develop drugs in both the early exploratory phase 1 and the late confirmatory phases 2/3. Studies conducted during phase 1 characterize the single and multiple drug pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and safety/tolerability profiles for a range of escalating doses. The ultimate goal is to determine the drug dose(s) and dosing schedule that are safe and effective in the target patient population(s). Studies conducted during phase 2/3 include studies aimed to determine how drug dose(s) should be adjusted in the presence of intrinsic factors, i.e. renal & hepatic impairment, and extrinsic factors, i.e. drug-drug interactions, food effects. Population pharmacokinetics and/or pharmacodynamics (PK/PD) analysis may be performed to determine the impact of patient-related factors on drug PK/PD that may affect how a drug is dosed.    

My special interest is in the area of oncology early clinical development, also referred to as “translational medicine”. In this phase, biomarkers are extensively used to profile the drugs and make decisions concerning their potential for further development. Elucidating the PK/PD relationships with use of modelling & simulation facilitate this decision making process.

Why did you choose the field of clinical pharmacology? As a PharmD student, I especially enjoyed pharmacology courses. Coming from a family of medical professionals, I also aspire to be involved with clinical medicine. For these reasons, I choose the field of clinical pharmacology because it’s a bridging discipline that combines elements of classical pharmacology with clinical medicine. Furthermore, clinical pharmacologists are concerned with both the optimal use of existing medications and the scientific study of current and new drugs in humans. I choose to work in the pharmaceutical industry because it’s a great way to help advance the field by contributing to the development of new medicines.    

How did you break into the field after completing your education? I graduated with liberal arts and engineering degrees from Columbia University, and a PharmD degree from University of Maryland. After graduating with a PharmD, I started an industry fellowship sponsored by Rutgers University and Novartis Pharmaceuticals. I was trained in clinical pharmacology and completed a PK/PD modeling-simulation rotation at Pharsight. Prior to the end of my fellowship, I took a position in the department of clinical pharmacology at Novartis Pharmaceuticals.   

Who was most influential to you in selecting your career path? Two thought leaders, one in clinical pharmacology and one in oncology were influential in shaping my career path.   

As eluded to, clinical pharmacology is an applied field that integrates various scientific disciplines. Arthur Atkinson was influential in this field. His NIH course on principles of clinical pharmacology nicely integrates the various scientific components in one place. The course covers pharmacologic principles underlying the individualization of patient therapy and contemporary drug development. The course helped me appreciate the field of clinical pharmacology and taught me how to effectively apply the principles of clinical pharmacology in drug development. Specific to oncology early clinical development, Paul Workman was influential in his biomarker-driven approach for molecularly targeted therapies. The rational framework referred to as the “pharmacological audit trail” is based on the use of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics to support rational cancer drug development.

In addition, I am very grateful to ACCP for the opportunities to develop leadership skills, such as being a part of a number of committees and especially for chairing and speaking at ACCP annual meeting symposiums. ACCP’s support throughout the years are an invaluable part of my development as clinical pharmacologist. A special thank you to Krista Levy for all of her encouragement and kindness.

What advice would you give a new and upcoming clinical pharmacologist? Clinical pharmacology is a broad field and clinical pharmacologists can work in either the industry, academia, or government agency. I would advise an upcoming clinical pharmacologist to, respectively, identify the area that he/she is interested in and the type of work setting that best fits his/her career goal. Working in an area that he/she is passionate about is one of the key to a successful career.

Also, two other advices because clinical pharmacology continues to be an evolving field. 1) It’s important is to identify mentors who can give advice throughout his/her career. A new professional will likely have questions as he/she carves a career path. Becoming an ACCP member is a great way to meet experts in the field of clinical pharmacology and develop long-term relationships. 2) It’s important to stay abreast of new developments in the field in order to be competitive. Another benefits of being an ACCP member is the access to Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (JCP).

In your opinion, what qualities should a student work on during their graduate studies to become a successful scientist? A student should work to develop 1) a solid scientific foundation in his/her area of concentration, 2) confidence in questioning and problem-solving abilities, 3) great communications skills in both speaking and writing, especially to explain complex ideas in a simplified manner, and 4) leadership skills.   

How do you distribute your time over research, teaching, meetings, traveling, consulting? Sometimes it’s a challenge to do so, but most important is to effectively prioritize, plan, and manage time in order to get everything done.   

What benefits have you enjoyed as a result of being an ACCP member? So far, I enjoyed and appreciate quite a few benefits of being an ACCP member. First, I enjoyed the opportunity to develop leadership skills by chairing and presenting at ACCP annual meeting symposiums. Second, I enjoyed opportunity to network with and learn from leaders in the field of clinical pharmacology. Third, I appreciate the opportunity to develop how to critically evaluate others’ work by reviewing JCP manuscripts. And fourth, I also appreciate the opportunity to be part of ACCP committees. I expect there will be more in the future.

How can students get involved in the various initiatives of the college? Students can volunteer for ACCP committees by contacting the chairs of the committees of interest.   

What do you enjoy most about attending ACCP annual meetings? I enjoy contributing to the annual meeting programs and networking with the experts, colleagues, and students.   

What networking opportunities are available for students attending the ACCP annual meeting? There are many networking opportunities available for students at ACCP annual meeting. Just by attending the meeting, students are surrounded by clinical pharmacology leaders in academia, industry, and government. Poster or oral presentations are a great way of discussing areas of research/interest while connecting with the experts and peers. Usually there are educational workshops that are geared towards students or new graduates which are other ways of connecting with the experts and peers. There are also special student evening receptions to network in an informal environment.   

What are some of the long term benefits of getting involved in ACCP as a student? The long term benefits of getting involved in ACCP as a student is the opportunity to grow professionally through different forms of educational forums: annual meeting symposiums, webinars, scientific journals, etc. As mentioned previously, other benefts include 1) the opportunity to meet and develop long-term relationships with potential mentors in the field of clinical pharmacology. 2) the opportunity to stay abreast of new developments in the field of clinical pharmacology.

What do you do when not working (i.e. other activities like sports, art, music etc.)?
I enjoy hiking, cooking, playing chamber music, and spending time with family and friends. I play the flute and piano, but I would really like to learn a string instrument. This is perfect because recently I inherited a cello!