Episode 11 – Drug discovery and development: How it’s done


Welcome back to the life sciences podcast! In this episode, we shall be travelling through the drug discovery and development process, which integrally links academia and industry and involves many of our researchers here in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester.

drug discovery

Our research spans from identifying the causative mechanisms of a disease and potential drug targets to discovering and designing new drug candidates, testing the safety and toxicity of drug compounds and even conducting successful clinical trials. Our researchers have even created spin out drug discovery companies from the university. As investments in drug discovery and development are sizeable from both a time and financial perspective, it is imperative to develop efficient practices and strategies in the drug discovery and development process. This both enhances the number and the efficacy of therapeutic treatments and prevent a bottleneck from drug discovery to market.logo


andrewdoigTo begin our podcast, we first speak to Professor Andrew Doig, co-founder of two drug discovery companies, Senexis Ltd. and more recently, Pharmakure, a spin-out company from the University of Manchester. Andrew’s research lies at the very start of the drug discovery process, desgning and identifying new drug candidates to treat Alzheimer’s disease. He also works on identifying novel drug targets and properties desirable in human drug targets for different diseases.

iankimberOnce a drug has been discovered, the next step is to validate, develop and evaluate both the efficacy of the drug and the toxicity of the compound. Hence, following on from Andrew, we speak to Professor Ian Kimber, Chair of Toxicology and Associate Dean for Business Development here in the faculty. We speak to Ian about the importance of toxicity testing and the development of novel toxicity testing methods in the drug development process. In other words, we find out how we make sure a drug is ‘safe’ for us to use. Ian also has a keen interest in finding alternative methods that mitigate the use of animals in research, and has won many awards in this field, including: the SmithKline Beecham Laboratory Anial Welfare Prize (2000), the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation Prize for Realistic Animal Protection in Biomedical Research (2001) and Society of Toxicology Enhancement of Animal Welfare Award (2003)baby

IndiBanerjeeAs clinical trials are often the last stage in the drug discovery and development process prior to a drug being readily available on the market, our final guests are:

karencosgroveDr Karen Cosgrove from the Faculty of Life Sciences and Doctor Indi Banerjee, Consultant at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, both of whom are part of the Northern Centre for the treatment and study of hyperinsulinism (NorCHI) and have worked on a recent clinical trial using purified fish oils to help treat congenital hyperinsulism; congenital hyperinsulism is a rare disease affecting new-born babies. Purified fish oils are easily bought over the counter and are established as a ‘safe’ supplement to use,  researchers have therefore exploited this to effectively and safely help treat the condition.



Episode 10 – Food for thought: The intricate relationship between obesity and the brain

This week’s podcast focuses on the intricate relationship between obesity and the brain. We will be answering questions such as:

Why is it so difficult to lose weight, even when you eat less?

Professor Simon Luckman discusses how our brain regulates energy balance. We find out how the brain receives information on energy status through a variety of different signals, such as nerve fibres sending signals from our gut or via the release of hormones such as leptin. Leptin is released from our fat stores to let the brain know how much energy we have in reserve. We also discuss how our body expends energy, and whether it is possible for us to simply increase our energy expenditure in order to counteract an increase in food intake. In an extended interview, I discuss the hormone irisin with Simon. This hormone is released by skeletal muscle and has been shown to increase energy expenditure upon both cold exposure and exercise and has recently been deemed by the media as a ‘weight loss’ hormone.

Is it bad to diet when you are pregnant?annewhite

Since the dutch famine, it has been noted that there is an association between maternal undernutrition and the propensity for the offspring to go on to develop obesity in later life. We speak to Profesor Anne White about how maternal undernutrition could be causing the offspring to develop obesity, and why this system may have evolved. We discuss where changes may be taking place in the foetus that lead to obesity in offspring in later life, and what these changes might be.

prof anne whiteIs being obese harmful to the brain?

Finally, we discuss how obesity can affect brain diseases such as alzheimer’s and stroke with Dr Catherine Lawrence. It is thought that being obese mid-life can have negative impacts on the timing and development of the disease Alzheimer’s. We discuss what mechanisms may be underlying the observed relationship between obesity and alzheimer’s. It is also known that in the lab, obesity not only leads to an increase risk of stroke, but also can affect the outcome and prognosis after a stroke. We speak to Catherine about the work she is involved with in identifying what could be causing obesity to influence stroke outcome, and why this negative relationship between obesity and stroke outcome is not always seen in the clinic.