Ann Daly is Professor of Pharmacogenetics at Newcastle University, and a member of the UK Pharmacogenetics & Stratified Medicine Network Steering Committee. We spoke with Ann to find out about her scientific background and her views on pharmacogenetics in drug safety.
Please can you tell us about your background?
"My original background is that I did a BSC and PhD in Biochemistry. During my PhD I did some biochemical work on drug metabolism and drug-drug interactions. Then I went to Switzerland and did a postdoc in the area of molecular biology, so moved away from what I was doing during my PhD. I then moved to Newcastle to another postdoc where I was working on retinoic acid, which started off as an extension of what I'd been doing in Geneva to some extent, but also represented a moving back to some of what I'd been doing during my PhD and having spent about four years working on retinoids, I then got an opportunity to apply for a more senior post when a new research group was being set up in Newcastle on pharmacogenetics.
"At that stage, the emphasis was on cytochrome P450 and I had some knowledge of the subject from the sort of things I'd been doing during my PhD so that seemed like an obvious way to go and that's really how I got into pharmacogenetics and I have stayed in this area since. I started the senior post in pharmacogenetics about 1990, so I've been working quite a while in this area now.There was quite a lot of interest in the area worldwide at that time, but it was different sorts of things that were being done, such as cloning genes and starting to study polymorphisms, but sequencing in those days was very difficult, so the amount of progress you could make on polymorphisms was a bit more limited."
Pharmacogenetics enables us to use drugs more safely, to predict people in whom good drugs will not be safe, so that they can be treated differently. Safety is the most important thing.
How did you come to join the UKPGx Network Steering Committee?
"I got to know Munir four or five years after I started working in the area of pharmacogenetics, he was starting off in the subject, too. One of my colleagues had done a PhD with Kevin Park of the University of Liverpool, so that led to some collaboration there."
What do you see as the benefits of the Network?
"I think there are two things: one is that it has a very good website, and the second thing is that the meetings, especially the open meetings, are well attended. There's a lot of interest in them because there's nothing quite like it in the UK. The audience comes from a variety of backgrounds, academics and clinicians but also SMEs. There’s quite a bit of SME activity in this area now, and these types of companies tend to be more represented at the Network Open Meeting than at meetings I’ve seen elsewhere. This provides them with an important opportunity because forming partnerships with people in other sectors is essential for the success of their projects."
What do you see as the future for pharmacogenetics?
"As new drugs are developed, we should be building in pharmacogenetics at an early stage in the research program. In the future, it’s going to be easier to genotype patients. But we're still in a situation where pharmacogenetics gets introduced at quite a late stage into development programs, and it really needs to be there early in the process and not be seen as a barrier."
Why is this important?
"Pharmacogenetics enables us to use drugs more safely, to predict people in whom good drugs will not be safe, so that they can be treated differently. Safety is the most important thing."