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Messel Travel Bursary Recipient, Francesca Bryden, Reports from Porto, Portugal

Frances Bryden

2 Jun 2015

Francesca Bryden was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary in 2014. Here, she reports on her attendance at the Antibody/Targeted-Drug Conjugates (ATDC) conference, which took place in Portugal in April 2015.

‘Receiving the SCI Messel Travel Bursary gave me the opportunity to attend the Antibody/Targeted-Drug Conjugates (ATDC) conference held in Porto, Portugal from 13-15 April 2015. This inaugural conference is the first in the area of antibody-drug conjugates. It aims to bring together both academics and industrial chemists to engage in discussion regarding the entire pipeline of conjugate development; from discovery of novel conjugation methodologies, cytotoxic payloads and targeting biomolecules, through to the commercial synthesis and pre-clinical and clinical evaluation of the resulting therapeutics.

‘Although my area of research is primarily porphyrin synthesis, as a result of recent collaborations I have published several papers exploring porphyrins targeted via biomolecules, such as antibodies and peptides, and as a result this conference appealed to me for several reasons. Firstly, I was keen to present my work to a new audience, allowing me to gain wider exposure of my research. Secondly, I hoped to receive questions and critique from a new perspective, considering the antibody conjugation and biological results rather than the synthetic procedures, as well as offering insight into the practicality of transferring my work to industrial applications. Finally, I hoped to gain an understanding of the current direction of research into antibody-drug conjugates in the pharmaceutical industry, with an aim of tailoring my future research to increase its clinical relevance.

‘I was extremely fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to showcase my work as an oral presentation by the conference organisers. Although I have previously spoken at conferences, this was one of my most daunting experiences I have had whilst presenting, as I was one of the few academics attending the conference, with most delegates attending from industrial positions. Despite this, I felt that the project I presented fitted well into the conference proceedings, and I managed to present a cohesive story outlining the development of a porphyrin-based antibody-drug conjugate from synthesis to preliminary in vivo testing. My talk was extremely well received in all cases, and I received numerous questions from a number of pre-eminent scientists, all of which I felt that I answered competently. Following the presentation, I also engaged in further discussion with several researchers, who provide insight into ways I could diversify and further my research in more clinically relevant directions.

‘This conference also provided me with an invaluable opportunity to learn about the cutting edge research taking place in the area of antibody-drug conjugates. I was interested to see that the full spectrum of antibody-drug conjugate research was well represented, with several speakers describing the development of novel conjugates from design through to clinical testing. This offered a fascinating insight into the entire drug development process. The keynote speakers also offered an excellent and broad introduction into the current state of the field of research, with a comprehensive overview of both the history and future of the area, which was extremely valuable to me as this is not my primary field of research. Finally, I found several talks which explored novel bioconjugation methods to be particularly interesting, aligning well with my interest in porphyrin conjugation to antibodies. These talks highlighted the recent explosion in diversity within conjugation technology, with examples of highly stoichiometrically controlled bridging technologies and platinum-based linkers which offered both conjugation to native antibodies and good structural control. In addition, the format of the conference gave me ample opportunities to discuss this research with others, allowing their comments and critique to further my understanding of the work carried out. I hope to be able to apply this knowledge of the changing directions in industry to my future research.

‘The nature of ATDC also meant that it was an excellent environment for scientific discourse and conversation, with the small size of the conference and extended coffee and poster sessions, I had plenty of opportunities to network with scientists from both academia and industry. As well as giving me further insight into the work presented at the conference and its relevance to my own research, these networking opportunities have also allowed me to lay the foundations for future collaborative work between our research group and both other academic research groups and possible industrial collaborators.

‘Finally, I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the conference organisers for giving me the opportunity to present my work at ATDC, and in particular to SCI for the financial assistance which made my attendance at this conference possible. Attending the conference was both extremely valuable to my research and career, and a highly enjoyable experience. I would thoroughly recommend this travel grant to any student considering applying'.

Francesca Bryden,
PhD student at the University of Hull

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