Imperial students collaborate on drug discovery for neglected diseases
Gaining ‘real-life experience’ is a top priority for any student deciding on a degree course. At Imperial College London, a new partnership with the research and development organisation Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), is giving students exactly that.
DNDi is part of the Open Synthesis Network (OSN), working with five universities from the UK, India and the US to develop anti-parasite compounds that could treat a range of serious diseases. Both undergraduate and masters chemistry students at Imperial are taking part, designing and synthesising the compounds ready for testing. The target in this first year of the collaboration is visceral leishmaniasis – an illness that kills up to 30,000 people annually.
Sebastian Oehler, a German student on the MRes Drug Discovery and Development programme, explains that “identifying the molecular target(s) of the antileishmanial compound series is the aim of my project. Starting with the design and synthesis of the chemical probe to “fish” for potential targets, the project now proceeds with the work on the parasites itself. Thus, I am able to actually be part of exciting interdisciplinary research applying my own chemistry to biology.”
Sebastian highlights the benefits of the collaboration between academia and industry: “I think it is a rare opportunity to be involved in such a future-oriented concept with hands-on experience in international collaboration, resulting in valuable contacts for further endeavours.”
Similarly, Spanish student Daniel, who is also on the masters programme, said “By collaborating with DNDi, I have been able to participate in a large partnership of universities with the aim of delivering new drug candidates for visceral leishmaniasis. This is a great opportunity to learn and improve my knowledge in chemistry and to create an impact on society by contributing in an actual drug discovery and development programme.”
Professor Ed Tate, Course Director for the MRes Drug Discovery and Development explains the key benefits to students: “Our students get the opportunity to work with a global organisation doing the best science for the most neglected tropical diseases, contributing to international development and networking with their peers across three continents.”
Dr David Mountford, Senior Teaching Fellow and admissions tutor for the MSci Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry said: “New and novel initiatives such as this train students to an exceptionally high level, such that they are more than capable of becoming the drug discovery champions of the future.”
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