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Institute for Applied Cancer Science

Medicinal Chemistry

The IACS medicinal chemistry team designs and synthesizes novel chemical entities with the goal of discovering safe, efficacious and innovative small molecule therapies that will progress into the clinic and onto pharmacy shelves. Once an initial lead compound with an adequate on-target biological activity is identified, the medicinal chemists focus on improving the molecule to possess all the characteristics that will ultimately make it effective in humans.

The team use their experience to rapidly produce hundreds of related compounds that provide an understanding of how structural modifications within a series of compounds translates into improved activity, both in vitro on the protein target and in cancer cells.

Beside interactions with the target, the medicinal chemists ensure that the compound will be safe and effective in humans. IACS chemists design compounds with drug-like properties to ensure the drug travels from the site of administration (usually the stomach/GI tract) into circulation and reaches the target of malignant cancer cells. Researchers ensure that IACS compounds have sufficient metabolic stability to remain in patients long enough to be therapeutically efficacious. In pursuit of a drug candidate, chemists also remove any unwanted off-target activity to confirm that the compounds will be safe and well tolerated in humans.

The members of the medicinal chemistry team closely interact with all other teams at the IACS,  routinely leveraging shared knowledge to design of superior compounds.

The current medicinal chemistry team is a balanced mixture seasoned medicinal chemists with numerous years of experience at major pharmaceutical companies and highly skilled synthetic organic chemists recently trained in the best academic laboratories. This composition enables the team to employ the latest techniques for synthetic organic chemistry while leveraging best practices from the industrial setting (e.g. parallel synthesis and automated mass trigger HPLC purification) to streamline their workflow.

Drug discovery efforts at IACS are led by Philip Jones, Ph.D. and (Maria) Emilia Di Francesco, Ph.D. leads the medicinal chemistry team.

© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center