Leverhulme Travel Bursary recipient, Daniel Mould, reports from the 253rd American Chemical Society National Meeting in San Francisco, California

13 June 2017

14 Jun 2017

Daniel Mould received a Leverhulme Travel Bursary, which allowed him to travel to San Francisco, California in February 2017 to attend the 253rd American Chemical Society National Meeting. He presented a poster on his PhD research, which looked at developing reversible demethylase inhibitors as a treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia.

‘The biannual National Meetings of the American Chemical Society are some of the largest scientific conferences held, and aim to bring together researchers from across the spectrum of chemical sciences. This year the 253rd ACS National Meeting and Exposition was held in San Francisco, California. More than more than 15,000 attendees presented over 9,000 research papers from across the spectrum of chemical sciences. The size and scale of the meeting doesn’t quite sink in until you get there, with San Francisco’s Union Square being taken over by an army of ACS badge wearing chemists. It has to be said that planning how to make best use of your time at such a meeting is a significant challenge, with up to 40 parallel sessions at any one time. Fortunately, the ACS makes use of extensive digital technology to help you plan your schedule in advance.

‘After arriving into San Francisco, I took advantage of a free day before the conference started to see the many sights. The fantastic weather that weekend was the perfect excuse for a jetlag-induced walk across the Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise, offering fantastic views looking back at Alcatraz and the city skyline. The city itself has a vibrant, colourful atmosphere, and an eclectic mix of traditional and modern architecture. The Palace of Fine Arts was another memorable highlight in this regard. Despite the positives, it is worth noting that San Francisco - along with many other cities in the USA - does have its fair share of social problems and substance abuse.

‘On the first day of the conference I presented my poster, detailing the research I have carried out during my PhD on developing reversible inhibitors of lysine specific demethylase 1 (LSD1) for the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia. This research has involved collaboration between groups within the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, and Swedish biotechnology company Beactica. The poster received a significant amount of attention, with a number of reprint requests. I had interesting discussions with a number of chemists working in both academia and industry about my experience working on LSD1, and the direction further work could go in.

‘A real centrepiece of the medicinal chemistry program is the ‘New Disclosures’ session, where companies reveal the structure of, and how they got to, their latest compounds in clinical development. There were several engaging talks from companies such as Novartis, AstraZeneca and Pfizer. Amgen stole the show however, with their development of incredibly intricate and synthetically complex Mcl-1 clinical compound, containing both macrocyclic and spirocyclic motifs. There was also a session on drug discovery for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), entitled ‘Putting the Ice Bucket to Work’. This session really highlighted the powerful potential impact charity funded medicinal chemistry can have, which is not yet thought of as an established method of funding research in the United States.

‘Alongside countless other excellent talks, Prof Jennifer Doudna gave an excellent keynote lecture, looking at the development of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology that is transforming the way biology is transformed. This method, based on the biochemical means of defence bacteria use to defend themselves from viral attack, is seen as a potential holy grail of genetic treatment for a plethora of diseases from cystic fibrosis, AIDs and cancer. Even if a great deal of further research is needed before the full scope of the technology it was realised, it was fantastic so get a first-hand account of the invention of the technology, which will surely result in the award of a Nobel Prize at some point in the future.

‘Overall, the 253rd ACS National Meeting was an extremely well organised meeting, and gave me the opportunity to see ground-breaking research from all areas of the chemical sciences. The poster sessions and Sci-Mix events were great platforms to network and exchange ideas with scientists from around the world. It felt like a fitting conclusion to my PhD research.

‘I owe a debt of gratitude to the Society of Chemical Industry for their support throughout my PhD, starting with their award of the University of Manchester best industrial placement student back in 2013. Since then they have opened so many doors and given me the chance to have experiences and interactions oven the past four years that I certainly would not have had otherwise. Their continued financial support, firstly through a Messel Scholarship, and this Leverhulme Travel Bursary has been much appreciated. I would like to thank Professor Alan Heaton personally for supporting my application for this travel bursary. Finally, I would encourage any young scientists reading this to get involved with SCI. They are extremely generous, and the support that they can provide could help you kick-start your career, get mentoring from experienced professionals in different areas, or even land you 5,500 miles away in San Francisco!’

Daniel Mould
PhD Student
University of Manchester

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