Global experts celebrate 10th anniversary of Drug Discovery Unit

The University of Dundee will host an international symposium this week to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of its Drug Discovery Unit, the world-renowned centre which last year revealed the discovery of a potential anti-malarial compound.

The event in the University’s School of Life Sciences marks a decade of academic drug discovery and working with partners to deliver possible new treatment for malaria, tuberculosis, leishmaniasis, cancer and many other diseases.

The Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) was born in 2006 when Professors Alan Fairlamb and Mike Ferguson, working on tropical parasitic diseases in the University’s School of Life Sciences, decided to go out on a limb and establish a ‘biotech-style’ drug discovery capability within an academic setting.

Professor Ferguson said, “There was quite a bit of scepticism about this at the time but bringing in top industry professionals, like Professor Paul Wyatt, who heads the unit, has been key to our success of translating excellent academic science toward the clinic.”

The DDU is the only fully operational, fully integrated drug discovery group working across multiple diseases based within a UK university, and one of only a handful worldwide. The Unit tackles unmet medical need through small molecule drug discovery, bridging the gap between academic scientific research and commercial drug discovery and development.

This has led to significant breakthroughs, most notably the discovery of a novel anti-malarial compound with the potential to treat malaria patients in a single dose, including those with malaria parasites resistant to current medications, and help reduce the transmission of the parasite.

Experts from around the world will be presenting at the 10th anniversary this week. Guest speakers include leading figures, including:

  • Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust
  • Sharon Peacock, Director of the new London Bloomsbury Institute
  • and senior representatives of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the drug-giant Glaxo Smith Kline and international agencies such as the TB Alliance, The Medicines for Malaria Venture, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative and many more

Professor Alan Fairlamb said, “It has been very exciting and rewarding to see our original vision come to fruition through the brilliant and dedicated drug discovery unit team, working closely with several fundamental research groups – teamwork, talent and dedication is the key, all the way down the line!”

After 23 years in drug development in the pharmaceutical industry the motivation for Paul Wyatt, and the many ex-industry drug discovery professionals in the DDU, is to discover new drugs for significant and poorly served diseases by leveraging the best biomedical science in academia.

Professor Wyatt said, “Drug discovery is an immensely complex endeavour involving teams of scientists working together. The DDU acts as a bridge connecting academic innovation to industry with the long-view aim of providing new medicines for patients.”

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University of Dundee
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