Inaugural meeting helps GlycoNet identify lead molecules for drug development

Post-doctoral fellow Omar El-Halfawy, a member of GlycoNet network investigator Dr. Eric Brown’s team at McMaster University, speaks at the GlycoNet Medicinal Chemistry meeting in September.


by Bernie Poitras

GlycoNet held its inaugural Medicinal Chemistry Workshop in September in Toronto with an eye to improving how its research projects can better contribute to drug development.

The purpose of the meeting was to add value to current research projects by understanding and identifying the best lead molecules to move forward and make additional analogues.

GlycoNet Principal Investigators from three projects, trainees and industry partners gathered for one day of discussion and decision-making. The meeting looks to build on GlycoNet’s commercialization strategy specifically in the area of drug discovery.

GlycoNet Scientific Director Dr. Todd Lowary explains that the meeting’s purpose is to help prioritize which molecules to focus on for drug development.

“Most academic researchers don’t have the expertise to identify the best hit compounds from high throughput screens to take forward for optimization into a drug lead,” says Lowary. “The idea behind this meeting was to get our network investigators in the same room with experts from the pharma industry to identify the most promising hits, which could then be prioritized to be the focus of additional work, including analog synthesis.”

Lowary feels this forum adds great value to GlycoNet’s high throughput screening efforts and in particular for future projects, the opportunity to engage more with experts in other fields.

“It was a great forum and opportunity to get expert advice in medicinal chemistry so we can make wise decisions and use our resources effectively,” he says.

Industry representative David Powell, director of chemistry at Inception Sciences, said he found a lot of value in the purpose of the meeting.

“As researchers in the Canadian community, we all benefit from the product of good science,” says Powell. “In particular, the discovery of new targets for diseases of unmet medical needs combined with high quality small molecule leads which can modulate those targets only further enables successful drug discovery programs.”

“Industry can help work with the academic labs to take the quality hits from early discovery to a potential commercial product; a critical step along that path is the high-throughput screening (HTS) screen,” he says. “Thus any efforts to improve upon the HTS process and drug-like properties of the leads from the HTS helps both academic and industrial scientists, and most importantly could serve to benefit patients.”

Powell added that meetings like this between industry and research needs to happen more often because each side can learn from one another.

“The academic groups got a sense of when an industrial scientist would file intellectual property, what sort of structure activity relationship (SAR) we have found is best done in the early stages of the program, and how to set up the HTS screen to maximize success rate,” he says. “The industrial scientists were able to learn the academic groups in terms of new targets, basic science projects and the type of collaborative efforts occurring across the academic labs.

The meeting was also a learning opportunity for GlycoNet trainees to learn more about medicinal chemistry.

“I felt fortunate to be included in a small focused meeting that bridged academia and industry,” says trainee Natalie Bamford, a graduate student in Dr. Lynne Howell’s lab at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “It was very eye opening to hear the guidance from the industry representatives in terms of IP and priorities with these translational projects. It was also amazing how quickly the chemists from academia and industry picked out problem compounds and functional groups that could be used to increase the likelihood of the project’s success.”

Lowary sees the meeting as a possible springboard to future partnerships or additional funding opportunities with industry partners.

Scroll to Top