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Cambridge MedChem Consulting

European Lead factory Newsletter

The latest issue of the European Lead Factory Newsletter has just been published.

Highlights include the European Lead Factory recently reached the milestone of having received over 1,000 chemical library proposals for consideration. To date, 143,529 novel compounds, out of the 200,000 prospected compounds for the Public Compound Collection, have been synthesized, which means that the ELF compound collection grows daily by approximately 250 novel compounds to eventually constitute the 500,000 Joint European Compound Library (JECL).

Parkinson’s UK and the University of Sheffield have launched a joint venture biotech company, Keapstone Therapeutics. Parkinson’s UK has allocated 1 million GBP over the next sixteen months to further develop compounds that boost the internal cellular defence mechanisms against oxidative stress. These compounds were discovered by European Lead Factory.

19th RSC / SCI Medicinal Chemistry Symposium

The 19th RSC / SCI Medicinal Chemistry Symposium takes place 10th-13th September 2017 at Churchill College, Cambridge, UK. This biennial meeting is one of the highlights of the drug discover calendar. The full lecture timetable can be downloaded here.

CMC - second announcement copy

Call for Posters
Contributions from the whole field of medicinal chemistry are invited. Flash presentation sessions are planned which will involve a two-minute presentation of poster highlights. Poster abstract submissions should be sent to the secretariat by 16th April if you wish to take advantage of the early-bird registration fee and indicate whether or not you would like to be included for consideration in the flash presentation session. The final deadline for submission of posters is 21st July.

Registration is now open and delegates are encouraged to book early to ensure places at this very popular meeting. Discounted rates are available to RSC and SCI student members, and some student bursaries are available. Applications are invited from PhD and post-doctoral students studying at European academic institutions, preferably members of the RSC, SCI or EFMC. Those submitting abstracts for poster presentation will be favoured. To apply for a student bursary, please complete and return the bursary application form by 21st July.

The Ecstasy and Agony of Assay Interference Compounds

There is an editorial in ACS Central Science DOI that I would encourage everyone involved in hit identification to read.

A couple of quotes will give you an idea of the content

Alarmingly, up to 80–100% of initial hits from screening can be artefacts if appropriate control experiments are not employed.

it is important to realize that no PAINS-containing drug has ever been developed starting from a protein-reactive PAINS target-based screening hit

They also emphasise the critical need for experimental validation for any screening hit.

Such validation experiments include classic dose response curves, lack of incubation effects, imperviousness to mild reductants, and specificity versus counter-screening targets. If a molecule is flagged as a potential PAINS or aggregator using published patterns but is well-behaved by these criteria, it may be a true, well-behaved ligand. Ultimately, genuine SAR combined with careful mechanistic study provides the most convincing evidence for a specific interaction. Covalent and spectroscopic interference molecules act via specific physical mechanisms, for which controls are known. Colloidal aggregation, fortunately, is readily identified by rapid mechanistic tests and by counter-screening.

In addition you need to consider compound identify and purity, reproducing the activity with an authentic sample is essential.

Whilst time-consuming this validation work will save a fortune in the future.

The BMCS Mastering MedChem III: 3rd RSC-BMCS symposium on mastering medicinal chemistry

This meeting is aimed at all those who wish to become better drug hunters and heed warnings from the past. (22 March 2017 09:00-19:00, Cardiff Bay, United Kingdom).

In the main there are two types of drug discovery programmes: those that hit serious problems and those that are going to hit serious problems. The difference between success and failure is how we, as medicinal chemists, tackle and resolve the problems

Sounds a great meeting both for those starting out in their careers and for those looking to pick up new tips.

WHO publishes list of bacteria for which new antibiotics are urgently needed

The World Health Organisation has published a list of the top 12 bacteria for which antibiotics are urgently needed in an effort to focus research.

The list highlights in particular the threat of gram-negative bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. These bacteria have built-in abilities to find new ways to resist treatment and can pass along genetic material that allows other bacteria to become drug-resistant as well.

WHO priority pathogens list for R&D of new antibiotics

Priority 1: CRITICAL

  • Acinetobacter baumannii, carbapenem-resistant
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa, carbapenem-resistant
  • Enterobacteriaceae, carbapenem-resistant, ESBL-producing

Priority 2: HIGH

  • Enterococcus faecium, vancomycin-resistant
  • Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant, vancomycin-intermediate and resistant
  • Helicobacter pylori, clarithromycin-resistant
  • Campylobacter spp., fluoroquinolone-resistant
  • Salmonellae, fluoroquinolone-resistant
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae, cephalosporin-resistant, fluoroquinolone-resistant

Priority 3: MEDIUM

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae, penicillin-non-susceptible
  • Haemophilus influenzae, ampicillin-resistant
  • Shigella spp., fluoroquinolone-resistant


The Community for Open Antibiotic Drug Discovery (CO-ADD) screen compounds for antimicrobial activity for academic research groups for free. The screening includes the top 5 pathogens listed in the WHO priority list, as well as the fungi C. neoformans and C. albicans. Details on how to send compounds are here. All they require is 1mg (or 50uL at 10 mg/mL) of pure compound which will be used for primary screening, hit confirmation, and if active will be used for a broader antimicrobial screening, cytotoxicity and a check for its purity.

Predicting bioactivities

Small molecules can potentially bind to a variety of bimolecular targets and whilst counter-screening against a wide variety of targets is feasible it can be rather expensive and probably only realistic for when a compound has been identified as of particular interest. For this reason there is considerable interest in building computational models to predict potential interactions. With the advent of large data sets of well annotated biological activity such as ChEMBL and BindingDB this has become possible.

These predictions may aid understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying the molecules bioactivity and predicting potential side effects or cross-reactivity.

A variety of options are summarised on this page.

Peptidyl-Prolyl cis-trans Isomerase (PPIase) assays

Having worked wit Selcia on a number of projects I always keep an eye out for news on their work on Peptidyl-Prolyl cis-trans Isomerases (PPIase). These are very interesting class of enzymes whose principal function is to catalyse the cis-trans isomerisation of the X-Pro peptide bonds in polypeptide chains (where X is any amino acid). This transformation is thought to be a mechanism to modulate protein function.


PPIase enzyme targets are of increasing interest in drug discovery due to the extensive potential of small molecule inhibitors in a range of therapeutic areas, including infection, inflammation, cancer and neuroprotection.

Selcia have now expanded the range of Peptidyl-Prolyl cis-trans Isomerase (PPIase) assays they can offer.

Open Source Malaria Competition

The Open Source Malaria group are running a competition to develop a computational model that predicts which molecules will block the malaria parasite's ion pump, PfATP4.

PfATP4 is an important target for the development of new drugs for malaria. We are providing a dataset of actives and inactives. The challenge is to use the data to develop a model that allows us to (better) design compounds that will be active against that target.

The competition will close on 31st March 2017.

The details of the competition can be found here and the video below gives more information

There is a Jupyter notebook that can be used to to access the information here or you can access the information in this google document, but remember the competition is a predictive model for series 4 only.

More details on Open Source Malaria

28th symposium on Medicinal Chemistry in Eastern England

28th symposium on Medicinal Chemistry in Eastern England, Thursday 27th April 2017, The Fielder Centre, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK
Organised by RSC-BMCS (Royal Society of Chemistry – Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Sector)

More details


09.00 Registration, refreshments and exhibition
Session chair: Adrian Hall, UCB
09.30 Opening remarks
Nicole Hamblin, GlaxoSmithKline
09.35 From phenotypic hit to a validated target for tuberculosis
Robert Bates, GlaxoSmithKline
10.10 Discovery of potent inhibitors of the lysophospholipase autotaxin
Prit Shah, Cancer Research Technology
10.45 Refreshments and exhibition
11.15 Development of Tesirine: a clinical antibody-drug conjugate pyrrolobenzodiazepine payload: medicinal chemistry at the frontier between small molecules and biologics
Arnaud Tiberghien, Spirogen
11.50 NMR conformational analysis in molecular design – case studies and impact
Martin Packer, AstraZeneca
12.25 Highly potent cell-penetrant inhibitors of the KEAP1-NRF2 protein-protein interaction via X-ray fragment screening
Charlotte Griffiths-Jones, Astex Pharmaceuticals
13.00 Lunch and exhibition

Session Chair: Simon Ward, University of Sussex
14:05 Selective on-target chemical probes of protein-protein interactions
Alessio Ciulli, University of Dundee
14.40 Solid state studies of a preclinical candidate in a CRO environment: the importance of de-risking early
Russell Scammell, Charles River
15.15 Refreshments and exhibition
15.45 Drug discovery case study
Tom Miller, Shire
16.20 Optimisation of a series of novel smoothened inhibitors
Matilda Bingham, RedX
16.55 Concluding remarks
17.00 Close

RSC Medicinal Chemistry Residential School

I've been a tutor at the RSC MedChem School on a number of occasions and I can say this is an excellent opportunity for scientists new to drug discovery to benefit from an understanding of all aspects of the drug discovery process, from target and hit identification, through ADME and computational chemistry, to patents and safety studies.

The 2017 Medicinal Chemistry Residential School takes place 11 - 16 June, Loughborough UK, it is always very popular so well worth signing up early.

The 2017 Residential School will take place over 5 days and content is delivered by experts in the field from industry and academia. The programme includes lectures focusing on the fundamental principles of drug discovery, hands-on tutorials allowing delegates to put into practice what they have learnt and case histories from previous drug discovery projects. The programme will also include an evening lecture from a distinguished speaker. Throughout the week course tutors and speakers will be available for informal discussion and there will be plenty of opportunities to network with the broad range of academic and industrial researchers in attendance.