I have a bachelor’s degree in physical and biomolecular sciences a master’s degree in science and, currently, I am a PhD candidate. I came from Brazil, where I have been developing my work at the Sao Carlos Institute of Physics – University of Sao Paulo. The institute is composed of several research groups in different areas of Physics and Interdisciplinary branches. I work in the biomolecular area with a protein, tubulin, that is the molecular target of my PhD project. The aim is to develop small molecules that interfere in the microtubule (tubulin polymers) polymerization process, which is a validated target for cancer treatment. The work I was developing in Brazil involved techniques such as molecular modelling, protein production, biochemical assays, cellular assays, flow cytometry, immunofluorescence, etc, and allowed to profile in vitro the biological activities and mode of action of a series of synthetic compounds. Due to my experience with cellular in vitro models I also got involved in a project called Lead Optimization Latin America (LOLA), a joint initiative that involves UNICAMP, our lab at USP and DNDi. It is an early stage R&D project that intend to develop new candidates for the treatment of leishmaniasis and Chagas disease. The project is driven by the multiparametric optimization of lead compounds, which involves drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK) studies. That is an area that lack trained human resources in Brazil and, in this context, I came to Dundee as a WCAIR trainee mainly, but not only, to learn theoretical and practical aspects involved in DMPK: how to generate, interpret and use these data to make decisions in a drug discovery pipeline.
During the first 2 months I got involved in courses and tutorials either about drug discovery as a whole or DMPK. I also had a short journey through the chemistry lab, learning about how to perform the quality control of compounds (LCMS, RMN – data generation and interpretation) and purification techniques to make the samples fill the criteria required for in vitro screening. During the following 5 months I could learn how to set-up, validate, perform, treat and interpret data from more than 10 in vitro DMPK assays. To be trained, I did all the assays by myself after shadowing a specialist in each of them. I also shadowed the in vivo PK samples generation, performed the bioanalysis by myself and learned how to generate the PK parameters. After my period in the DMPK, I spent 4 months with the biochemistry team to improve my biology skills and learn how to work in a high throughput screening environment. I was given the responsibility to develop an enzymatic assay to a T. cruzi protein that should be robust, miniaturized, automated, cost-effective and as simple as possible. When the optimal conditions that meet the previous requirements were stablished, I have been through an oral peer review of the assay, after which I wrote and had registered in their system a standard operation procedure (SOP) document. Finally, I could perform a screening of a series of compounds followed by a report generation. Beyond the science, this process taught me how to work, process and register data and reports in an “industry” environment.
As can be seen, my time as a WCAIR trainee was extraordinarily productive, which was possible due to the amazing environment they have there. Everybody, involved directly or not in the training program, was extremely friendly and supportive. Apart from the main tasks that I was engaged, I took part in several side tasks that also allowed me to learn a lot! I had a short induction in the computational-aided drug design tools, worked side-by-side with their protein production team, participated of several team meetings, communicated my work orally and even had experience with some public engagement events. I also made friends for life here and had a great time in Scotland. It was certainly an experience that worth every second.