The XXVII edition of the European School of Medicinal Chemistry (ESMEC) has been held in the capturing Renaissance scenario of Urbino from July 1 to 6, 2007. Of a total of 235 participants who have attended the this years’s edition, more than 65% was constituted by PhD, master of post-doctorate students, 20% by researchers from the academia and 15% by researchers from industry.
Although the participation to the School is a requirement for many Italian doctorate programs in medicinal chemistry, and thus the majority of the registrants came from Italy, the 11% of non Italian participants is an indication of the growing interest that the School is gaining around Europe. Interest that this year was particularly pushed by the appealing scientific program and by the quality of the invited speakers. In line with the well established format based on a four daily sessions, this year the School has covered the following topics: Biologicals and Small Molecules for Molecular Targets in Oncology; New Paradigms in Drug Absorption; Advanced Methodologies in Organic Synthesis; Biomarkers in Drug Discovery.
The first session on Molecular Targets in Oncology has seen Ciro Mercurio (Genextra, Milan; I) and Jascha-Nikolai Rybak (ETH, Zurich, CH) introducing biologicals approaches to treat and to veicolate drugs for treatment of oncological diseases. In the second half of the session, Carlos Garcia-Echeverria (Novartis, Basel CH) and Martin Drysdale (Vernalis, Cambridge; UK) have focused on medicinal chemistry approaches to small molecules modulating new targets in cancer research.
The second session was devoted to New Paradigms in Drug Absorption. After an introduction given by Han Van de Waterbeemd (AstraZeneca, Macclesfield; UK), Pierre-Alain Carrupt (University of Geneve, CH) has focused on physico-chemical models for drug absorption, while Jean-Michel Scherrmann (University of Paris, F) has introduced the very important topic of BBB permeability. In the afternoon, two case studies were offered by researchers from industry: Patrizia Crivori (Nerviano Medical Sciences, Milan, I) has focused on the role of active transporters, while Stefania Beato (GSK, Verona, I) has presented an overview on the impact of predicting and oprimizing absorption in drug discovery.
The third session on Advanced Methodologies in Organic Synthesis has seen the presentation of very interesting approaches and methodologies in organic synthesis directed to potential drug molecules. Cesare Gennari (University of Milan, I) has presented an example on the total synthesis of Eleutherobin: Peter H. Seeberg (ETH, Zurich, CH) has introduced the topic of Synthesis of Biomolecules in Microreactors. Luca Banfi (University of Genova, I) has presented the impact of multicomponent reactions while Allison Hulme (University of Edinburgh, UK) has focused on recent advances in the aldol reaction and to its applications to natural product synthesis. Finally, Giuseppe Guercio (GSK, Verona,I) has presented an example of environmentally friendly synthesis in chemical development.
The last day has covered a very hot topic, namely the impact that biomarkers may have in drug discovery. Orest Hurko (Wyeth Research-USA- and University of Dundee, UK) has offered a very stimulating overview of the state of the art of the field. Paolo Rovero (University of Florence, I) has presented an example of synthetic modified peptides for the identification of auto-antibodies, biomarkers of autoimmune diseases. Mahmoud Hamdan (GSK, Verona; I) introduced the impact that mass spectrometry may have in biomarkers discovery, while Goran Westerberg (SienaBiotech, Siena, I) has presented an example of the use of biomarkers to accelerate drug discovery. The didactic program of the School was completed by the keynote lecture of Napoleone Ferrara (Genentech, San Francisco, USA) on VEGF-A as a target to treat cancer and other disorders.
Two workshops on molecular targets in oncology and on advanced synthetic methodologies have completed the didactic program, promoting a closer interaction between students and lecturers and among students with different background and know-how.
As confirmed by the analysis of the evaluation questionnaires completed by participants, the School has certainly achieved its scientific and didactic aims, thus confirming the success of a format that nicely mixes up advanced seminars and didactic introductions and workshops. The informal environment and the appealing social program have also contributed to promote a productive interchange between participants. In conclusion, the ESMEC-Urbino school certainly contributes, together with the Swiss School, the Leiden/Amsterdam School and the Vienna School, to keep at a very high level the didactic offer of the EFMC. With the hope to continue along this way, the Scientific Committee is looking forward to see you in Urbino for the XXVIII edition, in July 2008.
by Gabriele Costantino, Univ. of Parma