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Cambridge MedChem Consulting

Causes of death over 100 years

The UK Office of National Statistics has produced a fascinating interactive plot of the causes of death in the UK over the last 100 years.

I've captured a screenshot of the plots but I'd urge to go and have a look at the interactive plot on the website


What is very apparent is the impact the introduction of antibiotics had in the late 1940's, and the introduction of mass vaccinations, deaths due to infections have been virtually eliminated.

In men heart disease remains the major killer whilst in women it is breast cancer. Sadly among the young it looks like mental health issues are a major concern.

Capps Green Zomaya Award

Nominations close on 31 October 2017

This Award was founded in 2002 in memory of the chemists Nigel Capps, Richard Green and Alex Zomaya to recognise outstanding contributions to medicinal or computational medicinal chemistry.

  • Run biennially
  • The winner receives £2000, a certificate and a medal
  • The winner is invited to give the 'Capps Green Zomaya Memorial Lecture' at the East of England
  • Medicinal Chemistry Symposium in April 2018
  • The winner will be chosen by an independent panel of senior chemists, selected by the Committee of the RSC Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Sector (BMCS) and the Capps Green Zomaya Trust.

More details are here

How many compounds do you select from virtual screening?

Whilst high-throughput screening (HTS) has been the starting point for many successful drug discovery programs the cost of screening, the accessibility of a large diverse sample collection, or throughput of the primary assay may preclude HTS as a starting point and identification of a smaller selection of compounds with a higher probability of being a hit may be desired. Directed or Virtual screening is a computational technique used in drug discovery research designed to identify potential hits for evaluation in primary assays. It involves the rapid in silico assessment of large libraries of chemical structures in order to identify those structures that most likely to be active against a drug target. The key question is then how many molecules do you select from your virtual screen?

Whilst virtual screening is certainly less expensive than high-throughput screening it is not free, even an in house academic cluster has an overhead (probably equating to > $10,000 per virtual screen). So with that investment how much would you invest in actual compounds?

19th Cambridge MedChem Meeting

The 19th RSC / SCI Medicinal Chemistry Symposium (#19thCamMedChem) takes place 10th-13th September 2017 at Churchill College, Cambridge, UK. This biennial meeting is one of the highlights of the drug discover calendar. Each meeting we try to enhance the scientific programme and this time there will be a live webcast of one of the sessions.


New for 2017 - Live Webcast Session on Neglected Tropical Diseases
Tuesday, 12th September Afternoon (13-30pm start).
Session Chair: Chris Swain, Consultant, UK

Introduction to the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) session
Kelly Chibale, University of Capetown, South Africa
PI4K inhibitors that target multiple life cycle stages of the human malaria parasite
Kelly Chibale, University of Capetown, South Africa
Discovery and characterization of ACT-451840: an antimalarial drug with a novel mechanism of action
Christoph Boss, Actelion, Switzerland

Refreshments and short film clips

Rapid discovery of non-covalent inhibitors of DprE1, a novel and exciting target to treat Mycobacterium tuberculosis: impact of medicinal chemistry on an open source collaboration
Rob Young, GlaxoSmithKline, UK
Potent, selective and orally efficacious inhibitors of Plasmodium falciparum Protein Kinase G (PfPKG)
Jon Large, LifeArc, UK
First disclosure of a new oral development candidate for the treatment of visceral and cutaneous leishmaniasis
Charlie Mowbray, DNDi (Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative), Switzerland
Closing remarks for NTD session
Charlie Mowbray, DNDi, Switzerland

The meeting is now fully booked but we hope that scientists around the world will be able to watch the presentations live using this link


Please feel free to share this link.

Trust but verify

There is an article in Nature describing a collection of problems that have arisen from incorrect chemical structures in biological screens DOI. I'm slightly surprised that this is regarded as newsworthy, but I guess it serves as a timely reminder.

The data from screening campaigns invariably contains errors

  • It is often a single point assay
  • Quality and diversity of Sample Collection is variable
  • Compounds may interfere with the detection system
  • False positives due to aggregation
  • High density plates can result in cross contamination, edge effects

There is a very simple mantra you should adopt when analysing screening data "Trust but verify".

  • Check compounds that were found active against the selected target are re-tested using the same assay conditions used during the HTS.
  • Does a resynthesised (not repurchased) show the same activity
  • Dose response curve generation: an IC50 or EC50 value is then generated, does it have a reasonable slope? Uneffected by incubation time.
  • Are related analogues available, check for genuine Structure-Activity Relationships


There is a strategy for the analysis of HTS data in the Drug Discovery Resources.

Molecules of Murder

I see that John Emsley, author of the new book Molecules of Murder: Potential Poisons is at a book signing tonight


If you can't make it, the books are available elsewhere. The ideal coffee table book.

Website update

I've spent the weekend updating the website to use https rather than http, this involved editing a fair number of of hardcoded URLs. Whilst I don't require any secure transactions it does seem that https offers a level of trust that is beneficial. It seems likely that other web browsers will follow Google's lead and have a popup message when accessing any page using http, I suspect this could rapidly become irritating so I've decided to make the move. You will still able to access using http but I'll be setting up redirects later this week. Hopefully the visitors will not really notice any difference.


If you want to edit your bookmarks here is the new link

Bias against interdisciplinary research


When I first started on my career I was only to well aware that funding bodies would reject proposals for having "not enough chemistry" or "not enough biology" but I had hoped that by now it would be realised that multidisciplinary teams were key elements in bleeding edge science. However this recent paper suggests the problem still persists. Anyone who has been involved in drug discovery will understand the importance of interdisciplinary research

Point of View: Correcting the bias against interdisciplinary research DOI

When making decisions about funding and jobs the scientific community should recognise that most of the tools used to evaluate scientific excellence are biased in favour of established disciplines and against interdisciplinary research.

Scientists who leave the safe haven of their home discipline to explore the uncharted territory that lies outside and between established disciplines are often punished rather than rewarded for following their scientific curiosity

Perhaps all funding bodies should read this book

The Medici Effect, With a New Preface and Discussion Guide: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation

The book is the basis for "The Medici Effect," a term coined by Johansson and used throughout various industries to describe innovation that happens when disciplines and ideas intersect.

MRC opens drug discovery funding applications

The Medical Research Council (MRC) recently announced that it will provide funding for up to ten high throughput screening (HTS) projects a year to run within the AstraZeneca UK Centre for Lead Discovery. The centre is home to NiCoLa-B, the world’s the world's most advanced drug discovery robot. NiCoLa-B can test up to 300,000 compounds a day

Closing date is 27 Sept 2017

Further information on the collaboration with AstraZeneca

Virtual Screening Pages Updated

I've updated the pages describing virtual screening, in particular the docking section.