Nele Mueller-Plock | Director of Pharmacometrics
Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.
Department: Integrated Drug Development
Education: Pharmacist degree (state examination), University of Muenster, Ph.D. Clinical Pharmacy, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Career stage: Mid
What do you do?
In clinical research, a large amount of data is generated to better understand the pharmacokinetics (what the body does to the drug) and the pharmacodynamics (what the drug does to the body) of a development compound. I develop dynamic models that describe the time course of underlying physiological processes to help identify optimal doses or dosing regimens, predict outcomes in special populations like pediatrics, and to ultimately guide development decisions. I work both as a hands-on modeler, writing code, and as a consultant in teams, giving strategic input for model and overall drug development. I am also a communicator of modeling results, translating mathematical details into key outcomes helpful for clinicians.
What types of skills do you use?
Pharmacometrics requires interdisciplinary skills, bringing together expertise in mathematics and programming, physiology, and pharmaceutical sciences. The key to success is working in a team with experts of multiple backgrounds who have all acquired knowledge outside of their original area of training. Working as a consultant, you must be well organized and efficient, and be a good communicator.
What are the pros and/or cons of your profession/job?
I feel very lucky working in one of the biggest pharmacometrics consultancy companies worldwide. We have the opportunity to be exposed to many different disease areas and modeling approaches. I love interacting with my clients and helping them to make informed decisions. I am faced with many scientific challenges but feel nothing is more rewarding than seeing a drug being approved and being made available to potentially save lives, knowing I have contributed to this success in some way.
Does your job offer flexibility?
I work from home as a part-time employee and am very flexible when it comes to working hours. I often spend my lunch break doing sports and can build my working schedule around my kids’ activities. What counts is the high-quality work that needs to be delivered and being available for clients when I am needed.
What career path did you take to your current position?
I always had a strong interest in mathematics but went to study pharmaceutical sciences as I had no knowledge about how to apply ‘pure’ mathematics after graduation. During my studies, I was exposed to the concept of measuring drug concentrations in the body and developing nonlinear mixed-effects models to make predictions and dose recommendations. I could see a direct benefit for patients and decided to apply for a Ph.D. in pharmacometrics. I worked for multiple smaller and bigger pharmaceutical companies in positions with increasing responsibility. Joining a consultancy company was a great step that made me grow even further. I wouldn’t say this career path was completely planned. At some point during my studies, however, I realized how I could combine my interests in physiology and mathematics, and then it was all clear.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing a similar degree or profession?
Be curious and get experience across many disciplines. Do not fall in love with your equations, or the elegance of your modeling approach. Instead, learn to break it down to simple messages (visualize!) that will help clinicians in making the right decision.
Salary varies between companies and locations and is a combination of base/bonus/long-term incentives (LTI).
Entry Level: $120K–$135K + 20% bonus/LTI
Associate Director: $170K–$210K + 40% bonus/LTI
Director: $210K–$250K + 60% bonus/LTI
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