Looking at a person’s face, we may see their age, gender, ethnicity and perhaps get some idea of their environment – are they smoking, are they rich or poor, do they drink too much? The proteins in our livers, kidneys, intestines and brains also reflect such differences, and some of these proteins metabolise or transport the drugs we take. Drugs are usually tested on young, healthy, white men, and the doses calculated to be suitable for these volunteers may or may not be suitable for children, other ethnicities, smokers or pregnant women. For non-toxic drugs this doesn’t matter very much; everybody takes a small overdose and comes to no harm. But for many drugs and for some diseases or conditions, it can make the difference between a drug doing its job or doing nothing, or even between a drug doing its job or killing the patient. My research is aimed at profiling the drug-metabolising enzymes and transporters of different groups of people. My colleague Professor Amin Rostami then leads the effort to build systems models allowing us to predict the right dose of the right medicine for the right patient.
Jill Barber attended a South London comprehensive school and then studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge. She completed a PhD in Bio-organic Chemistry at the same University, before moving to South Germany, where she studied Nuclear Medicine, early music and German. She settled in Manchester in 1986, with a permanent position in the School of Health Sciences, where she is a member of the Centre for Applied Pharmacokinetic Research. Her research focuses on Proteomics – characterising and quantifying the proteins responsible for drug metabolism and transport in humans. She still enjoys singing, playing violin and trombone, and rock climbing.