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Opportunities and Risks Presented by Big Data in Medicine

10-Year Celebration Symposium of PharMetrX Graduate Research Training Program from April 19 to 21, 2018, in Harnack Haus

№ 061/2018 from Apr 11, 2018

Smart phone apps for personal fitness plans, sensor clocks for blood pressure monitoring, biomarkers for detailed diagnosis of illnesses: the extent of digitalization in the health care sector is growing rapidly, accompanied by a flood of data. But how can big data be used for the benefit of the patient, and what are the risks and side effects? These and similar issues will be addressed at a symposium in the Harnack Haus in Berlin-Dahlem to be held April 19 to 21 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the doctoral program “PharMetrX – Pharmacometrics & Computational Disease Modeling.” The program, which is jointly funded by Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Potsdam, involves pharmacists and mathematicians working with a practical orientation to develop mathematical models for the progression of illnesses and modes of action of drugs in patients in order to develop more effective therapies. Plans are underway to incorporate the topic of big data in medicine into the research work and the training program.

Since 2008, 67 doctoral students have been admitted to the graduate program, more than half of them women. In addition to five one-week training modules at Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Potsdam, the curriculum includes a one-week module with a partner from industry and as well as individual industry internships lasting two to three months. Industrial and academic partners exchange ideas at regular symposia, and several times per year there are day-long working group meetings at the two participating universities. Every two years, there is a meeting for currently enrolled students and graduates within the “Network of former and present PhD students of the PharMetrX program,” founded in 2013 to exchange experiences and facilitate networking.

“The program has become an internationally successful model,” says Charlotte Kloft, a professor of clinical pharmacy and biochemistry at Freie Universität, who heads the program together with Wilhelm Huisinga, a professor of mathematical modeling and systems biology at the University of Potsdam. “Nearly 90 percent of the participants have completed their doctoral studies or submitted a dissertation. Almost all the graduates have found their career prospects in this field of research, about a third of them at universities and two-thirds in industry.”

“Through experimental progress we are able to investigate and record the relevant biological processes more and more accurately,” explains Huisinga. This results in growing amounts of data. “These data are only the first step. The goal of pharmacometrics is to gain new insights from them,” Huisinga adds.

About 100 experts from science and industry are expected to attend the conference in the Harnack Haus of the Max Planck Society in Berlin-Dahlem. The conference language is English. The keynote speaker will be Gunaretnam (Guna) Rajagopal, Vice President and Global Head of Computational Sciences within Discovery Sciences, Janssen R&D (USA). He will speak on the topic “Translating Big Data into Insight for Enabling Drug Discovery & Development.”

Media representatives are welcome to attend the conference. Registration is requested by writing to PharMetrX10@pharmazie.fu-berlin.de.

Further Information

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Time and Location

  • Symposium “On the path from big data to precision medicine,” April 19 – 21, 2018
  • Harnack Haus Berlin, Ihnestraße 16-20, 14195 Berlin


  • Prof. Dr. Charlotte Kloft, Head of Clinical Pharmacy and Biochemistry, Institute of Pharmacy, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 83850676, Email: charlotte.kloft@fu-berlin.de
  • Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Huisinga, Professor of Mathematical Modeling and Systems Biology, Institute of Mathematics, University of Potsdam, Tel.: +49 331 977-5933, Email: huisinga@uni-potsdam.de