In Vivo Pharmacology

Historic background

In the 1970s, most new drugs were identified by screening new drug candidates in experimental animal models. In the 1980s, this screening was increasingly carried out with various in vitro assays which were able to identify the desired effect. In the 1990s, molecular pharmacology had almost entirely replaced screening in experimental animal models. In educational institutions, the focus in the biological sciences was on molecular biology and molecular pharmacology.

Achievements in these areas revealed very interesting perspectives both for elite university research into the development of new drugs and for the industrial development of new drugs. However, the need to put molecular observations in the context of the animal as a whole was overlooked. There are now very few researchers who have mastered this area, which is known as in vivo pharmacology. This shortage is a problem both in Denmark and internationally.

As early as the mid-1990s, the increasing international shortage of in vivo pharmacologists was featured in the journal The Lancet. In 1996, the huge shortage of in vivo pharmacologists in Denmark was on the agenda at a meeting of the Danish Society for Pharmacology and Toxicology.

The need for the industry and the universities to work together to train more in vivo pharmacologists was highlighted. Since then, the pharmaceutical industry has taken somewhat sporadic initiatives to co-finance a number of PhD students who have been trained as in vivo pharmacologists. In addition, the pharmaceutical industry has employed tens of foreign researchers with this background.

Shortage in qualified In vivo Pharmacologist

As a result of this significant exodus to the pharmaceutical industry, it has been impossible for the universities and higher educational establishments to retain researchers with a background in in vivo pharmacology, which in turn has caused difficulties for continuing education in this specialist area. In vivo pharmacology, which can be characterised somewhat simplistically as pharmacology in laboratory animals, requires access to facilities for experimental animals and laboratories where experimental work in animals can be carried out. Such facilities are expensive to set up, maintain and run. In addition, the costs of laboratory animals and their accommodation are considerable, while molecular pharmacology requires substantially fewer resources.

The backdrop to this research school is therefore a major shortage of in vivo pharmacologists, both in the drug industry and in terms of recruitment by the universities. It is crucial for continued development that such training gets under way, and on a scale that reflects the huge demand.