Key drug discovery experts from across Florida converge at 2017 UF Drug Discovery Symposium

The second annual UF Drug Discovery Symposium brought together many of Florida’s major players in the drug discovery field at the UF Hilton Conference Center on Sept. 21 and 22.

The symposium — hosted by the University of Florida College of Pharmacy’s Center for Natural Products, Drug Discovery and Development, or CNPD3, — featured nearly 130 participants and plenary speakers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Scripps Research Institute-Florida and National Cancer Institute.

Eric Fisher, Ph.D., from the department of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, presented his research on the structural principles of small molecule mediated ubiquitin ligase targeting.

Thomas Kodadek, Ph.D., of the Department of Chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute, spoke about finding a new way to target the proteasome for cancer chemotherapy.

David J. Newman, D.Phil., retired chief of the Natural Products Branch of the National Cancer Institute, gave examples of pitfalls of natural product-based drug development and how they were overcome.

“The various sessions were dominated by the common theme that natural products are exquisite starting points for drug discovery and development for infectious diseases, cancer and also drug abuse and addiction,” said Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D., director of the CNPD3 and professor of the department of medicinal chemistry at the UF College of Pharmacy.

The event highlighted research from the CNPD3 and featured session speakers from the University of Florida, University of South Florida, Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, University of Central Florida and the Smithsonian Marine Station. The 14 session speakers covered a variety of topics across natural products discovery, chemical synthesis, structure-based drug design and assay development and screening.

Short talks presented by five graduate students — four from UF and one from USF — and three postdoctoral fellows — two from UF and one from FAU, were a highlight this year. From the 47 posters presented – 38 from UF and nine from other Florida research institutions – six winners were given awards along with the three oral presentation winners. Of the nine winners, five were from the UF College of Pharmacy.

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Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D., director of the Center for Natural Products, Drug Discovery and Development, welcomes participants to the second annual Drug Discovery Symposium at the UF Hilton.