Pharmacist-clinical pharmacologist Robert Rissmann has been appointed Professor of Translational Dermatology. This extraordinary professorship has been created jointly by the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR) and the Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR) to strengthen their partnership in high-quality drug research.
Over the last decade Robert Rissmann has been developing novel methods and strategies for clinical pharmacology research in the area of dermatology at CHDR. The appointment at LACDR (Leiden University) was the next logical step to combine the clinical knowledge and advanced trial infrastructure at CHDR with state-of-the-art drug delivery and analytical expertise of Leiden University. It reflects that the research themes skin, immunology and technology are aligned perfectly between these Leiden BioScience Park partners. The commitment of both parties will enable novel, mechanistic investigations from bench-to-bedside form which patients will benefit. Furthermore, both partners envisage the collaboration to result in an even stronger position of Leiden University in the field of drug research.
Clinical Pharmacology meets dermatology
Rissmann is a pioneer in the implementation of clinical pharmacology methods into trials with novel drugs for the skin. This entails the development of methods to quantify local drug exposure in the skin, new ways of drug delivery as well as identification of novel, sensitive biomarkers with high spatial and temporal resolution. An illustrative example of the latter is the Trial@home approach, using apps and sensors on a smartphone to collect data in an outpatient setting. Rissmann: ‘ We monitor patients’ skin lesion severity and extent through pictures and quantify their sleep quality as well as itch and pain. We also use the platform to remind them to apply their medication. In addition, we perform more high-tech assessments like digital biopsies via optical coherence tomography in the clinic’.
For the drug developer in auto-immune diseases, the skin is an interesting organ since it is easily accessible, and the response can be quantified readily. In recent years, a wide range of skin research tools has been developed, combining a tailored set of methods into the DermaToolbox. Up to now, emphasis was on imaging and non-invasive assessments of the patient’s clinical phenotype. The next level of comprehensive drug development entails a multimodal approach to generate a full profile of both the drug and the individual patient. For this “deep-phenotyping” different domains are being studied including patient-reported outcomes, the classical physician-based clinical scoring, and biophysical, cellular, and molecular biological biomarkers as well as (pharmaco)genomics and the external exposome. Various techniques can be employed such as transcriptomics, proteomics, lipidomics, and metabolomics as well as microbiomics. This novel systems dermatology approach will integrate the various data sets in order to phenotype the pathophysiology and treatment response in high detail.
Next-generation translational research
In his early science carreer Rissmann worked on novel treatments for skin disorders including eczema. The focus of his work supervised by professor Joke Bouwstra at LACDR was on in vitro and in vivo development on novel formulations for skin barrier repair. By returning to the LACDR Rissmann is able to feed clinical findings back to model systems in the laboratory. At the same time, it will open opportunities to bridge the basic understanding of the skin from the lab to the clinic. The internationally leading skin research group in combination with the unique analytical infrastructure will yield a top-in-class dermatology hub for fundamental and applied skin research enabling true translational research.
Due to the complexity of modern clinical trials and state of the art science, a multidisciplinary setup is required involving various scientists such as bioinformaticians, medical specialists, technical experts, physicians and other colleagues. All specialists need to collaborate seamlessly while trial and research infrastructure fully align. The various collaborators of Leiden University Medical Center and Erasmus Medical Center as well as other research organisations are key for his type of research. Rissmann: 'Translational science means building bridges between different institutes and different specialities to create synergism. Therefore, we have created a large network of clinicians and researchers (Dutch Clinical Network for Trials in Dermatology, CONNECTED www.dermaconnected.nl) because being connected is the starting point for a succesful journey.'
Robert Rissmann (1977) studied pharmacy at the Free University of Berlin, Germany. He obtained the license to practice as a pharmacist in 2004 and subsequently began a PhD project in drug delivery at the Leiden Academic Center for Drug Research (Leiden University), focusing on translational dermatology. Robert successfully defended his PhD thesis on skin pharmacology in 2009. From 2010 to 2017, he was Director of Education at CHDR with an emphasis on clinical pharmacology and pharmacotherapeutics. His research interests concern translational models in both immunology and dermatology for drug development in early-phase clinical research. He is a member of the board of the Dutch Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Biopharmacy and board member of the Education Committee of the British Pharmacological Society. In 2015, he was appointed Associate Professor at the Leiden University Medical Center. He has published over 55 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, and is actively involved in the supervision and training of PhD students. Since 2017 he has held the position of Research Director in Dermatology, and heads the Dermatology research group at CHDR.