Young Chemist in Industry: One year on

23 October 2017

24 Oct 2017

The 2016 Young Chemist in Industry award went to Sam Dalton at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), for his work on selective irreversible phosphoinositide 3-kinase δ (PI3Kδ) inhibitors as a novel approach to treating autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Autoimmune diseases are conditions where the immune system attacks the body instead of foreign germs. Diabetes and Multiple sclerosis are common examples.

Another form of autoimmune disease are inflammatory diseases. After infection or trauma, inflammation should protect the injured tissue from further infection and start the healing process through neutrophil trafficking. In inflammatory disease, this process occurs without an incident of harm to the body, leading affected tissue to swell and become sore, stiff, and painful – as seen in arthritis.

During the healing process, PI3Kδ is involved in T-cell receptor signalling, B-cell development, and neutrophil trafficking to inflamed areas, with several selective reversible PI3Kδ inhibitors already on the market. However, their use is limited due to poor selectivity.

Sam’s winning research works on creating an irreversible version of these compounds, through modification using electrophilic moieties – functional groups that attract electrons that react with identical groups on another molecule. GSK believes the work is the first recognised evidence of selective irreversible PI3Kδ inhibitors, which could hopefully provide a more long-term and reliable alternative to current PI3Kδ treatments for autoimmune diseases.

Sam is currently a University of Strathclyde Industrial PhD student at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and has gone on to win the bronze award at STEM for Britain in 2017 – a poster presentation competition for early-career scientists, launched by SCI alumnus Dr Eric Wharton, and run annually by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee.

‘I’m currently writing up my PhD thesis, with the aim to submit in early 2018 and have continued to work on my project generating covalent PI3Kδ inhibitors,’ he said.

Since his win, Sam also been awarded a Mac Robertson Travelling Scholarship from the University of Glasgow, which is reserved for postgraduate students wanting to travel outside of Scotland to further their research experience and achievements.

‘I used this funding to visit Prof Benjamin F. Cravatt’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute, California, for three months to improve my knowledge of chemical biology, and learn how these techniques can be applied to drug discovery,’ Sam said.

The award for this year will be given out at our upcoming ‘Young Chemist in Industry 2017’ conference. Talks from early-career industrial experimentalists will be given throughout the day, followed by the prize-giving.

The conference will be held on Wednesday 1 November 2017 at AstraZeneca, Macclesfield and is organised by SCI’s Young Chemists’ Panel.

By Georgina Hines

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