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.

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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.

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Episode 7 – The slow loris, a cute killer primate, and conservation

Welcome back to a new year of the life sciences podcast! In this episode we learn about the world’s only venomous primate with Prof Anna Nekaris, a Professor in  Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University. We also speak to George Madani, a Wildlife Ecologist, who regales us with his first hand experience of the lethal slow loris venom! Finally we catch up with Stephanie Landymore, a guest on the previous podcast. We discuss her journey graduating from Manchester to her current position as parliamentary campaigns officer for RSPB. We speak about engaging with conservation in the UK through campaigning and advocating science policies, and get some pretty good career tips for any young budding conservationists.

slowloris3The slow loris (Nycticebus spp.) is a remarkably cute-looking nocturnal primate found throughout South and Southeast Asia, but has a devilish dark evolutionary adaptation. It is in fact one of only a handful of venomous mammals and the world’s only venomous primate known to date. The lethal loris is therefore incredibly unique amongst the animal kingdom. Hence, we wanted to learn more about these fascinating animals. Prof Anna Nekaris reveals what we currently know about the chemical composition of the slow loris venom, what the slow loris may be using this venom for, and why it has evolved. We find out the effects of the slow loris venom on humans from our Wildlife Ecologist, George Madani, who fell victim to the slow loris bite whilst deep in the Borneo jungle! Although a humorous story to tell, George reminds us of the dangers when encountering wild animals.

If you would like to read more about the biochemistry, ecology and evolution of the slow loris venom, click here to view Prof Anna Nekaris’ paper on the subject!

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Many people may have heard of or seen slow lorises due to their numerous appearances on youtube videos. Even celebrities can be found posting pictures on the Internet with these primates. Yet, these videos are helping both the photo-prop and the pet trade, two of the major threats to slow loris populations. We speak to Anna about the issues surrounding slow loris conservation and the work she does, including running the  little fire face project,  in order to help protect these magnificient primates.

Finally we speak to Stephanie Landymore about her journey into conservation. We hear her story from working at the Durrel Wildlife Conservation Trust in her placement year to finally getting a position as Parliamentary Campaigns Officer for RSPB. We learn what inspired her to want to influence policy makers and prevent decisions that could have vastly negative consequences on a great variety of species and habitats, rather than focusing on the individual species or habitat. We then discuss how she followed this aspiration, gaining work experience in various different roles, from volunteering for Feed the 5000  to working on a climate change campaign, 10:10. Stephanie gives us great advice for people graduating and interested in pursuing a career in conservation.

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Another interesting fact about the slow loris is it is also a monogamous primate, relating to our first podcast on the evolution of monogamy in primates!

Here is a video of Anna helping rescue a slow loris!