Symposium brings together two powerhouses in drug discovery

Two powerhouses in drug discovery came together for The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute Chemical Biology & 5th UF Drug Discovery Symposium, April 20-21, 2023, in Jupiter, Florida. Faculty from the University of Florida College of Pharmacy’s department of medicinal chemistry, the UF department of chemistry and the Center for Natural Products, Drug Discovery and Development, or CNPD3, joined forces with scientists from The Herbert Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation and Technology to host a symposium focused on advances in drug discovery and chemical biology.

5th Drug Discovery Symposium
Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D.

More than 180 scientists attended the two-day event, including faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Experts in natural products chemistry, medicinal chemistry and drug development, protein homeostasis manipulation and chemical proteomics delivered presentations at the meeting. Speakers included Bill Fenical, Ph.D., M.S., from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego; Nathanael Gray, Ph.D., from Stanford University; Ingrid Wertz, M.D., Ph.D., from Lyterian Therapeutics; and Dan Nomura, Ph.D., from UC Berkeley. The event also served as a forum for early career scientists to highlight their research in drug discovery and chemical biology, with more than 50 research posters displayed during an evening reception.

Hosting the symposium together provided a special opportunity for scientists at the UF College of Pharmacy and The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute to become more familiar with drug discovery research underway at each institution. The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute joined UF Health in 2022.

“The symposium served as a catalyst for new interactions and joint research projects between the UF College of Pharmacy and The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute,” said Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D., the Debbie and Sylvia DeSantis Chair in Natural Products Drug Discovery and Development and chair of medicinal chemistry in the UF College of Pharmacy. “We have the opportunity to create something special in the area of drug discovery through the synergy of like-minded scientists from the two campuses.”

5th Drug Discovery SymposiumFaculty in the UF College of Pharmacy’s department of medicinal chemistry are leading early-stage drug discovery and development and employing advanced screening techniques to identify novel drug targets and lead candidates. They are keenly focused on areas such as natural products chemistry, cancer, pain and infectious disease. At The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute, scientists are internationally recognized for their innovative research in natural products chemistry, chemical biology and RNA therapeutics research, in a setting exceptional for its drug discovery infrastructure and translational focus.

“The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute Chemical Biology & 5th UF Drug Discovery Symposium showcased the immense research talent and drug discovery expertise that now exists within UF Health,” said Thomas Kodadek, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute. “We were thrilled that so many scientists from around the state were able to join us this year.”

The CNPD3’s leadership has been the driving force in helping the UF Drug Discovery Symposium expand every year. The inaugural event was held in Gainesville in 2016 and attracted about 120 attendees and 30 poster submissions. The most recent symposia have approached nearly 200 attendees and attendance remained steady with the symposium moving from Gainesville to Jupiter this year. What began as a UF-centric event, now attracts scientists from multiple Florida universities and research institutions.

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