Communication Team

The EFMC’s communication team has been established to help promoting Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology in Europe and around the globe, with the aim to create a shared network, and inspire young future scientists.

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Meet the Team :

Chiara Borsari is a L’Oréal and UNESCO for Women in Science Fellow and adjunct professor at the University of Milan (Italy). Before, she was a senior postdoctoral fellow and co-lecturer at the University of Basel (Switzerland). Her research is mainly focused on the development of targeted covalent inhibitors. After research visits at the NHRF in Athens and the State University of New York at Albany, USA, she obtained her Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy) in 2017.

She is also keen on communicating her science to the public. In 2019, her short movie “Life in Colour”, explaining the advancements in cancer research, has won the Jury Prize at the Exposure Science Film Hackathon. She has joined the EFMC communication team to boost the awareness of the importance of Medicinal Chemistry in science.

Nadia Ahmad obtained her MSci. in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry at Imperial College London, before moving to the University of Nottingham to undertake her PhD in natural product synthesis with Professor Nigel Simpkins. This was proceeded by a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, working under the tutelage of Professor Keith Jones.

She then joined Takeda at its Cambridge site in the UK, during which time she undertook a six-month secondment at the Takeda San Diego site, working on CNS disorders and inflammation. She then moved to Eli Lilly and was fortunate enough to be able to continue fulfilling her passion for neuroscience, working primarily on GPCRs. Nadia joined CRL in 2019 from Vertex Pharmaceuticals where she worked on ion channel and enzyme targets in the areas of neuropathic pain and neurodegenerative disorders, and cancer. She is a Group Leader in medicinal chemistry with responsibility for leading multi-disciplinary teams all the way from Hit ID to pre-clinical candidate.

Piia Bartos is a post-doctoral researcher currently working at University of Eastern Finland. She got her PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry in 2015 from the same university where she studied sirtuin inhibitors. The increased activity of sirtuins is associated with many health benefits and longer lifespan, but in her project she was only able to find compounds to inhibit their function. She had no intention to make people sick and live shorter lives, though, as also sirtuin inhibitors could be useful in the treatment of some health problems, such as diabetes or cancer. She moved slightly away from her comfort zone of drug design and designed a variety of enzymes during her first post-doctoral position in Czech Republic, as obviously it is not challenging enough to design small molecules. After this international experience, she got back to University of Eastern Finland to use her newly learned computational simulation skills to understands the mechanisms of protein-RNA interaction. Piia joined the Communication Team to promote the slightly bizarre field of medicinal chemistry to everyone.

Laia Josa-Culleré is a Marie Curie postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia (IQAC-CSIC) in Barcelona. After finishing her Bachelor in Chemistry at the University of Barcelona, she obtained a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge and a PhD at the University of Oxford, where she stayed for her first postdoc. There, she led a drug discovery project aimed at finding novel small molecules that could differentiate acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells in a wide range of patient populations. Her current research focuses on the development of a new therapy against cancer stem cells, using external light to control drug selectivity.

She joined the YSN to help strengthen the network of medicinal chemists in Europe, and to foster communication both within the network and to the general public.

Etienne Donckele is an Associate Director at Monte Rosa Therapeutics working in the field of molecular glue degraders. He performed his undergraduate research with Prof. Barry M. Trost at Stanford University and carried out one-year placement in medicinal chemistry at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Etienne obtained his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the ETH Zürich under the supervision of Prof. François Diederich. In parallel to his studies, he has been the president of the Behringer Simon Lecture within the same university (2014-2015).

Etienne completed his Swiss National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at Caltech with Prof. Dr. Brian M. Stoltz in natural product synthesis. In 2017, Etienne gained experience across multiple phases of drug discovery throughout Philochem AG (a Swiss subsidiary of the Philogen group) first as a research scientist before taking on the role of Deputy Head of Chemistry. He worked on the development of the DNA-encoded chemical library platform and on multiple medicinal chemistry projects. Etienne is a named inventor on 3 patent applications and has authored 20 scientific publications.

Kristina Goncharenko works in the business development team at SpiroChem, fine chemicals company based in Basel, Switzerland. Her main goal is to support medicinal chemists around the globe in designing drugs of tomorrow. She completed her PhD at the University of Basel in a diverse field: by combining biochemistry, biology and chemistry her project was focused on understanding the mechanism of a novel enzyme called sulfoxide synthase. Kristina is an active member of the Swiss Chemical Society and helps to strengthen the communication between pharmaceutical industry and young chemists. She believes that having a close network of medicinal chemists and chemical biologists will support innovation in science.

Caroline Lanthier is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the university of Antwerp working in the field of ferroptosis under the supervision of Prof. Koen Augustyns. 

She did her phD studies in medicinal chemistry at CERMN (Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche sur le Médicament de Normandie) in Caen France under the supervision of Prof. Christophe Rochais. Her research focused mostly in the development of antioxidants compounds for neurodegenerative diseases. 

As a passionate communicator she is and was involved in a lot of science communication projects in France and Europe (Reflexion, Pint of Science...). She joined the EFMC-YSN communication team in 2019 to help promote the network and the field of medicinal chemistry.

Michele Mari is Assistant Professor (RTD-B) in Medicinal Chemistry at University of Urbino Carlo Bo, He achieved his Ph.D. in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences from the same university working on the strategic indole functionalization for the synthesis of tryptophan containing alkaloids and biologically active tryptamines. He spent 9 months at ETH Zurich as visiting researcher working on the total synthesis of proteins. In september 2017 he founded GLUOS (innovative Start up and University Spin off on the synthesis of molecules for medical devices) with some colleagues and he is actually the President of the Board of Directors of the company. He is also member of the organizing committee of the European School of Medicinal Chemistry, and he is active locally in spreading the importance of soft skills and entrepreneurship vision. The driving force that makes him so active is an infinite passion for Science.

Brieuc Matagne studied communication, marketing and political sciences at the University of Louvain, Belgium. Interested by the event planning world for a long time, he joined LD Organisation in 2014 as Conference Manager. In mid-2015, he started managing the Administrative Secretariat of the EFMC as part of his mission at LD Organisation. Since then, he is working behind the scene in helping running the daily business of the EFMC together with the Executive Committee Members. Lone non-scientist in this team of talented ones, he is using his expertise in communication and planning to assist the team in their mission to increase the EFMC visibility and brand awareness.

Sean McKenna is a PhD student in Chemical Biology at Trinity College Dublin, working under the supervision of Professor Joanna McGouran. He earned his MChem undergraduate degree at the University of York, before moving into industry as a medicinal chemist with Vernalis Research. Sean returned to academia in 2020, pursuing his PhD in the design and synthesis of novel probes for deubiquitinating enzymes. Beyond his contributions to his home institutions, Sean has collaborated as a visiting researcher with the groups of Professor Guofu Zhong at Nanyang Technological University and Professor Sander van Kasteren at Leiden University. In 2022, he joined the board of the Young Scientist Network with the aim of supporting and promoting high-quality EFMC events for early career researchers.

Matic Proj is a PhD student at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His research focuses on the design and evaluation of fragment libraries for the discovery of potential enzyme inhibitors. His scientific work is interdisciplinary and it includes techniques of biochemistry, cheminformatics, molecular modelling, chemical analysis and synthetic organic chemistry. During his studies, Matic was active in a national Pharmaceutical Students’ association and worked as Public Relations Representative. As one of the youngest team members with a great passion for science, he brings his ideas, computer and social media skills. He joined the team in March 2019 to gain new knowledge and experience while promoting the field of Medicinal Chemistry and facilitating communication.

Filipa Ramilo Gomes is a PhD student in Medicinal Chemistry at Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon, Portugal under the supervision of Prof. M. Matilde Marques (MedChemTrain PhD Programme). She received her master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of Beira Interior, Portugal. Before starting the PhD, she participated in multiple international projects related with Pharmaceutical Sciences and Medicinal Chemistry.

Her PhD project is focusing on cancer epigenetics, particularly the design, synthesis and biological evaluation of new EZH2 inhibitors. Filipa worked as PhD visiting student in the Computational Aided Drug Design field at University of Vienna and Inte:Ligand GmbH, Vienna, Austria. Then, Filipa moved to Hamburg, Germany, to work as PhD visiting student at Fraunhofer Institute- ScreeningPort, where she evaluated the biological profile of prospective new drugs.

Filipa joined the Communication Team and Young Scientist Network because she believes that only by working together with the best scientists, sharing ideas, ambitions and dreams, it is possible to contribute to address society’s health needs.

Luc Van Hijfte holds a PhD degree in Chemistry from Gent University (1984, Belgium) with Prof M Vandewalle, and finalized his academic training by a two-year post-doctoral stay at UCSB with Prof RD Little. He started his industrial career as a medicinal chemist at Merrell Dow in 1986 in Strasbourg, France, where he progressed to head of the medicinal chemistry by the time the site had become part of Sanofi in 1998. In 2002 he moved to Janssen, J&J, first as Research Director of their R&D site in Val de Reuil, France, before taking on the role of Senior Director, Head of Medicinal Chemistry EU, at Janssen Research & Development, with responsibility for European-based medicinal chemistry, analytical technologies, and ADMET.

During this tenure, Luc was privileged to contribute to several successful projects, with numerous programs entering into clinical development in the areas of neurosciences, oncology, and infectious diseases. In 2012 Dr Van Hijfte became CSO of NovAliX, Illkirch, France, before moving in 2017 to his actual position of Senior Director, Head of Drug Discovery at Symeres, where he oversees all activities related to integrated drug discovery activities for clients worldwide. In parallel, he has been involved in a few start-ups, the principal one being Phytodia since 2015, a Strasbourg based company valorizing scientifically plant extracts for cosmetics and nutraceutics, where he occupies the position of President.

Dr Van Hijfte has been the president of the TechnoPole Chimie-Biologie-Sante in 2004-2012, Vice-President of the French Medicinal Chemistry Society (SCT) in 2015-16, President of the SCT 2017-18, and is currently member of the Executive Committee of the EFMC as president elect. In 2018, he has been elected and named member of the “Académie Nationale de Pharmacie” in France, for his multiple contributions to pharmaceutical developments.

Clemens Zwergel is currently an Assistant Professor (RTD-A) at the Sapienza University of Rome. In the last years he proved to be a true European citizen: he moved after his license to practise as Pharmacist from his country of origin (Germany) to Exter (UK) for a Diploma in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Before moving to Italy, he was then a MarieCurie fellow in France (Metz) where he obtained his EuroPhD within the RedCat network. Since 2010, his main research interest lies mainly in the design and synthesis of analogues of natural compounds as well as modulators of epigenetic enzymes with potential applications in cancer, neurodegenerative, metabolic, and infectious diseases resulting in more than 50 publications. Communication and divulging science are very important aspects for a researcher, thus I would like to increase the visibility of Medicinal Chemistry and the EFMC to the scientific community as well as the general public as well as strengthen the European collaborations together with the other team members.