Florida Winter School’s inaugural session shapes future PBPK/QSP modelers

Tk Nguyen, Pharm.D., arrived in Orlando for the week-long Florida Winter School with great enthusiasm. As a postdoctoral fellow with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Innovation at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, she wanted to broaden her understanding of drug modeling and simulation. At the same time, she saw an incredible opportunity for networking among some of the world’s leading scientists in the physiological-based pharmacokinetic modeling and simulation arena.

Dr. Stephan Schmidt helped organize the inaugural Florida Winter School and led several of the sessions, along with UF faculty and industry partners.

“Florida Winter School allows you to learn from and interact with renowned teaching professionals in such an intimate setting,” said Nguyen, whose FDA fellowship is affiliated with the University of California San Diego. “This was the first time I have participated in a training program focused on modeling and simulation, and it energized me to be surrounded by peers who share a similar career interest in this field.”

Nguyen was one of 31 graduate students, trainees and working professionals who attended the inaugural Florida Winter School, Jan. 22-26, in Orlando. The attendees represented top academic institutions as well as the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry.

Hosted by the University of Florida College of Pharmacy and the UF Center for Pharmacometrics and Systems Pharmacology, the training program brought together early-stage research scientists interested in physiological-based pharmacokinetic modeling, or PBPK, and quantitative systems pharmacology, or QSP.

“Establishing the Florida Winter School seemed like a logical building block for branding the UF Center for Pharmacometrics and Systems Pharmacology as a global academic leader in the mechanism and physiologically-based modeling and simulation space,” said Stephan Schmidt, Ph.D., the Certara Endowed Professor in the UF College of Pharmacy and director of the Center for Pharmacometrics and Systems Pharmacology. “We are fortunate to have many world-class faculty associated with our program who would like to see it succeed and grow, and it is humbling to see everyone come together to create this exceptional program.”

More than a dozen modeling and simulation experts delivered presentations and led training sessions during Florida Winter School. They included faculty from UF as well as partners from the pharmaceutical industry.

“The 2024 Florida Winter School was a highly interactive, intensive learning experience that introduced early-stage scientists to practical drug development challenges,” said Mark Rogge, Ph.D., an adjunct professor in the UF College of Pharmacy. “The broad diversity of students and faculty in terms of expertise, interests and geographic perspective made for a unique and valuable experience. The skills learned through this training program will be put to practical and frequent use in the workplace.”

In its first year, the Florida Winter School garnered global interest, drawing participants from eight countries across four continents.

Julia Macente, B.Pharm., was among the attendees who traveled from overseas to attend the event. The third-year graduate student is pursuing her Ph.D. at KU Leuven in Belgium and wants to expand her knowledge of PBPK modeling.

The inaugural Florida Winter School attracted more than 30 attendees from eight countries and four continents around the world.

“The University of Florida is well-known internationally for its pharmacometrics program,” Macente said. “I was very interested to see how Florida Winter School could extend my ideas and generate excitement about PBPK modeling.”

Leading up to the Florida Winter School, Macente read scholarly works written by the very authors who presented at the event. She formulated lists of questions based on the topics and looked forward to the event’s networking opportunities.

“The accessibility to experts in the field makes Florida Winter School a great training opportunity,” said Valva Vozmediano, Ph.D., a senior director of model-informed development at CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services. “The dynamism of the program, which integrates lectures and hands-on and discussion sessions, creates a perfect space to solve basic to complex questions, learn by doing and understand mechanistic modeling behind the scenes.”