In Conversation With

This series of seminars are delivered by a variety of experts in Drug Discovery.  Topics include how industry and academia work together in drug discovery and a breakthrough for anti-malarial drugs.

Why do we have to test on animals? Haven’t we advanced enough to stop using animals in new medicine development?

As scientists, we want to ensure that our medicines are safe and do the job they are meant to. Animals can serve as a surrogate for these disease models, meaning we don’t needlessly risk human lives. Animal lives are important too, of course. Their care and welfare is tightly controlled by licences, regulations, and our expert scientists.

We will be in conversation with Professor Kevin Read (Head of Quantitative Pharmacology and Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics), Luke Newman (Director of Biological Sciences) and Ngaire Dennison (University of Dundee’s in-house veterinary expert). They have years of experience studying, testing and caring for animals in drug discovery research. We will explore how animals are tested on, what the scientific community is doing to reduce the number of animals tested on and what care and treatment these animals receive while under our care.

The world is full of data. Such vast amounts of knowledge out there begins to create new problems. With so much information generated in a drug discovery project, how could you cross reference against what someone else has done? How could you avoid their mistakes and learn from them? How many articles would you have to read?  Could you remember everything?

We humans face limits with their ability to recall, learn and use complex data. Artificial intelligence (AI) could help. It can scour the literature, design new medicines, and potentially enable shortened lead times for a medicine to reach the clinic. With the current wait is being 15-20 years, can your diseases wait this long?

We’ll be in conversation with Jeremy Besnard, chief designer, and joint founder of Exscientia. They are an exciting start-up success story, spun from the University of Dundee. We’ll explore recent advances in AI in drug design, success stories and challenges. You’ll be able to ask your burning questions about the topic too, to enhance your human knowledge.

$1 billion is the average cost to get just one medicine from idea to market.  Only about 1 in every 100 drug development projects make it to clinical development.  With high attrition rates, vast expenditure, and the need for expensive resources, new medicine development is a huge challenge.  This is true even in high-income countries where there is access to funding, equipment, knowledge and infrastructure.  But what happens if you don’t have all of these?  Is it still possible?

Meet Ian Gilbert and James Duffy.  Ian is a professor of chemistry at the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research (WCAIR) and James is the director of drug discovery at Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).  Both have considerable expertise working in drug discovery in industrial and academic settings.  They also spend time supporting scientists working in institutes that are not as well-resourced in their quest to make new medicines.

Join us as these experts discuss the challenges and opportunities for drug discovery in settings where resource is scarce.

Lots of people might think of TB as a disease of the past, associated with Dickensian London. In fact, tuberculosis is still a huge problem, causing disease and suffering throughout the world. Current medicines are difficult to take, needing months of treatment, and compliance with treatment is poor.

At the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research, we are trying to change the situation. Our team of world-class TB medicine experts are trying to make new medicines to fight this old disease. Dr. Laura Cleghorn and Prof. Paul Wyatt will be giving us their view from the front line of this vital area. Join us at this online event to discover what they’ve been up to, and why TB is such an important subject in the age of Covid…

We live in an ever more complex world. How can scientists and publics listen to and understand one another?  How can science and society function well together to make a healthier, happier world?

The history of how scientists and publics have communicated is long and winding. In the past, there was a notion that scientists were in a position of power, and should just tell people a series of facts.

As our body of scientific knowledge has ballooned in recent years, so has our understanding of this complex dynamic. More and more, scientists realise they have to not only communicate their research, but also listen to the public. This process takes a great deal of time and effort, and a new generation of Public Engagement Professionals have emerged. With varying skills and backgrounds, they can help to facilitate these 2-way conversations so that everyone benefits.

At this event we’ll be hearing from 2 of these people, Ali Floyd and Zandile Ciko telling us where they’re from, what they do, and some stories from the front line. With very different backgrounds from 2 continents, half a world apart, the event is bound to be an insightful adventure into the world of public engagement with research.

Chemists are present from the very first conversations about a target right through ongoing manufacture of a drug. But not the same chemists! Different skills are involved, and the focus of the process varies across different stages.

Enter our 2 chemists for this conversation. FRITIOF PONTEN is the CEO of Biotech Fluidics. CHIMED JANSEN is principal computational chemist at Mercachemsynom, a contract research organisation spanning the full drug discovery process. Both chemists, they work at very different stages of the medicine cycle.

We will talk through this process, and the interviewees will discuss what matters in their roles, what stage they come in and bow out, and how they overlap with the others. What makes a productive team, what do they need from one another? What has changed and what do they see changing around them? What do they think it looks like in the future?

For many the ‘pharmaceutical industry’ conjures strong images and emotions. Ideas around technology, testing and, perhaps above all else, money, can colour impressions. In this event, we’ll be taking a look behind the scenes with 2 researchers with special perspectives on the subject.

Professors Ian Gilbert and Kevin Read worked in academia and the pharma industry respectively, before both found themselves in academia. Why? What are the differences between the two sectors? What can they learn from one another and how, in the age of antimicrobial resistance and Covid, do they complement one another?

Join us to meet these two experts, find out about their fascinating journeys and discover more about this much-maligned yet vital field of research.

Malaria kills over half a million people every year, and the parasite is rapidly evolving resistance to current treatments. New ways of dealing with the disease are desperately needed, and innovative researchers at the University of Dundee just might have an answer.

Meet Beatriz Baragana and Irene Hallyburton, scientists from the Drug Discovery Unit. A medicinal chemist and a malaria biologist, they have the behind-the-scenes story of how a potential new medicine came to be found in Dundee. A tale spanning a decade and counting, it’s sure to be a fascinating look into the life of a drug discovery project.