Efthymios Gavriil reports from the SCI/RSC Medicinal Chemistry Symposium in Cambridge

26 October 2023

Efthymios Gavriil received a bursary to attend the SCI/RSC Medicinal Chemistry Symposium in Cambridge in September 2023. Read his event report below:

Efthymios Gavriil"‘Sky is the limit’ is the key message sent by the SCI / RSC 22nd Medicinal Chemistry Symposium that took place in Cambridge from 10 to 13 September 2023. The scenic venue of Churchill College was filled with drug discovery stories of unprecedented quality, demonstrating the full potential of modern medicinal chemistry. During the four days of the symposium, researchers from all over the world presented scientific breakthroughs against challenging targets in a wide range of therapeutic areas. In addition, the presence of hundreds of delegates coming both from industry and academia, across multiple career stages, created invaluable opportunities for scientific exchange and networking.

"Throughout the talks, the concept of ‘undruggable targets’ was constantly challenged, as in the cases of brain penetrant KRAS inhibitors, SOS1 inhibitors which prevent KRAS activation and small molecules targeting IL-1b. Furthermore, the benefit of exploiting allosteric domains was exemplified by the extraordinary potency and selectivity of a novel TYK2-JH2 inhibitor. Positive and negative allosteric CNS receptor modulators as well as kinase, lipase and ion channel inhibitors were also showcased with impressive therapeutic potential for CNS disorders.

"We were introduced to arginase inhibitors for enhancement of T-cell anti-tumour response, as well as NMT, CTPS1, SHP2, pan-BET bromodomain and protein-protein interaction inhibitors for treatment of cancer. The power of AI-driven drug discovery was also shown in a case of A2AR antagonists. Novel targets and drug candidates were presented against inflammation, malaria, acne, diabetic foot ulcers, angioedema, kidney and infectious diseases. Especially in the field of antivirals, the story of the first-in-class, long-acting HIV capsid inhibitor Lenacapavir fascinated everyone in the room, whereas the discovery of next generation, unboosted HIV protease and SARS-CoV-2 oral protease inhibitors demonstrated that state-of-the-art drug design can achieve the impossible.

"One of the highlights of the symposium was of course, the presentation of the Malcolm Campbell memorial prize to Charles Coombe and Matt Fuchter, who discovered at Imperial College London, CDK7 inhibitors as a novel anti-cancer therapy. Moreover, RSC Hall of Fame winner, Karin Brinner, delivered an inspiring lecture on the past, present and future of drug discovery. It is important that we, as a drug discovery community, reflect on all the hurdles we have overcome and the challenges we face, while we are getting better equipped with new technologies and emerging modalities.

"Apart from all the wonderful talks, the programme included poster sessions and flash presentations, which gave the opportunity to many young researchers, like me, to engage with the audience and present our research. Additionally, on the first day of the symposium, I had the chance to attend a medicinal chemistry workshop designed for young drug hunters. Through a fun, interactive, ‘game-like’ process, we worked together in small teams experiencing the discovery process of new drugs, from hit identification to nomination of clinical candidates. A dedicated team of professional medicinal chemists from the pharmaceutical industry facilitated our learning experience and helped us understand key factors, which drive drug discovery projects.

"Overall, the SCI / RSC 22nd Medicinal Chemistry Symposium was a fantastic event, representative of the high quality of modern medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. I am grateful to the SCI / RSC for the bursary award that gave me the opportunity to attend this conference and witness the latest advancements in the field. I am sure that everyone is already looking forward to coming back to Cambridge for the next symposium!"

Dr Efthymios S. Gavriil, PhD MRSC
Research Associate in Medicinal Chemistry and Cancer Drug Discovery
Imperial College London

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