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Proteinase: From Molecules to Medicines

Areej Abuhammad

26 July 2011

Messel bursar Areej Abuhammad reports on the 7th SCI-RSC Symposium on Proteinase Inhibitor Design, which took place at Novartis, Basel, Switzerland from 11 - 12 April 2011

At the symposium I presented a poster 'Investigation of a Novel Potential Target for Anti-tuberculars'. In this poster I presented work on an enzyme that is essential for M. tuberculosis survival inside macrophages and which is linked to cholesterol catabolism, and latent tuberculosis. HsaD (2-Hydroxy-6-oxo-6-phenylhexa-2,4-dienoate hydrolase) is a meta-cleavage product (MCP) hydrolyase that shares a similar catalytic triad and structure with serine proteases. My current research focuses on the design of inhibitors against this enzyme by fragment based drug design.

The conference was excellent opportunity for me to talk with fellow researchers about my project and the target protein I am interested in and to learn about other techniques and strategies for targeting proteases for drug discovery. The poster session were invaluable for fitting my research into a wider context and provided many ideas for ways to further my own research. This will help greatly with writing my thesis.

A spectrum of speakers presented their work in the two day meeting, many of them from the largest pharmaceutical companies. They delivered rich and memorable experience in the field of drug design and proteases. In their talks the speakers discussed their successful efforts that find their way to clinical studies on targeting proteases for the treatment of different diseases. The meeting covered all aspects of targeting proteases for drug design starting with target validation and covering the different approaches used in the different research laboratories including: computational methods fragment based design, crystallographic studies and the different medicinal chemistry approaches to optimize initial leads into drug candidate in clinical trials.

The meeting also covered proteases as drug targets for a wide range of diverse diseases including osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, infectious diseases and cancer, HCV and as immunosuppressants and antithrombotic agents.

All the sessions I attended were of a very high standard, as were the poster sessions, which stimulated a lot of lively discussions. All in all an excellent event, which I gained a huge amount from, not only in meeting such high profile speakers but also in the number of ideas I picked up from such a focused meeting. It also gave me the opportunity to gain feedback on my work and hear the latest cutting-edge research going on in the area.

Overall, the conference was excellent and by all accounts a successful experience for me. The small size, around 80 attendees, made everyone very accessible and provided a relaxed atmosphere. It was a fantastic learning experience and I have made important new contacts who offered to help me when I start building drug like molecules from the fragments that I have identified – definitely worth the trouble that I had with my visa application.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to attend this meeting and would like to thank SCI for its generous support.

Areej Abuhammad

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