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On Dr Dick Climie and Dr Jack Thomas, and the genesis of chemical-clinical pharmacology in Australian anaesthesia research

University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales


Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic research is regularly reported in most contemporary anaesthesia-oriented journals. This sub-specialty area of pharmacology grew rapidly from the 1960s as various essential concepts and tools—laboratory analysis of drug/metabolite concentrations in biofluids, physiological signal collection, and methods for analysing/presenting relevant pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data—started coming together. For Australia, such research began in Sydney in the mid-1960s with collaboration between anaesthetist Dr C.R. Climie (1923-2013) at the Royal Hospital for Women and medicinal chemist Dr J. Thomas OAM (1928-2017), and was achieved through a succession of postgraduate research student projects in the Department of Pharmacy of The University of Sydney, initially supervised by Dr Thomas. These consisted of studies concerned with the systemic absorption and placental transmission of drugs being used in parturients. By the late 1960s, Sydney anaesthetists Drs G.J. Long and C.A. Shanks (1936-1998) were also participating, and the projects were becoming more complex, including studies of the metabolism of local anaesthetics and other drugs by mothers and neonates. Between the mid-1970s and early-1980s, with additional anaesthetists, postgraduate research students and their academic supervisors participating, the projects focussed mainly on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of neuromuscular blocking agents. This form of chemical-clinical-pharmacologically-based anaesthesia-oriented research that started in Sydney with the collaboration of Drs Climie and Thomas led to many challenging higher degree projects for pharmaceutical scientists, and access to unprecedented research capabilities for anaesthetists. Most significantly, it established a permanent place for multidisciplinary pharmacokinetic- and pharmacodynamic-based research within Australian academic departments of anaesthesia.

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