How did you get interested in Medicinal Chemistry?
It was at the beginning of my scientific career, when I was just a PhD student. I became interested in the interface between chemistry and biology and more concretely and how the, at that time incipient, molecular modelling methods, might contribute to the understanding of the mechanism of action of drugs.
Where and when did you obtain your PhD diploma?
I obtained my PhD diploma in 1982 in the Autonomous University of Barcelona. The topic of my PhD was the study of differential molecular determinants of MAO-A and MAO-B inhibitors using computational approaches.
Where do you work at the moment and what is your current position?
I am currently director of a Research Program on Biomedical Informatics, which is a joint program of the Pompeu Fabra University and the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute, located in Barcelona. My current research is focused on the development of new computational strategies and tools serving the biomedical research.
What do you like most in your job?
The most interesting aspect of my job is its multidisciplinary nature. The projects that we develop and the research team that I lead synergically integrate knowledge and professionals from several disciplines, such as medicine, biology, computer sciences, chemistry and pharmacy.
What kind of tasks your job includes?
As director of a program (a kind of academic department), constituted by more than sixty professionals including ten principal investigators and their groups, I have tasks related with the coordination and strategic guidance of the program, including bureaucratic duties that, as you can imagine, are the less attractive. In addition, I have some direct collaborators within the program, and I develop my own research projects in collaboration with them.
What kind of skills your job requires?
My job requires scientific and human experience and I think that have a lot of this taking into account my age.
What do you consider your biggest achievement in your scientific career?
I am particularly proud of the DisGeNET knowledge resource on gene-disease associations that we have been developing along the last ten years. It has become a worldwide recognized resource with more than 5000 users per month and more than 1000 bibliographic citations.
What is the most embarrassing thing you did in the lab while doing experiments?
Since I use to work in silico (computational) labs, explosions are not particularly usual, but we remember incidents related with floods in the room were our computer servers are located, which were particularly damaging.
Which scientist do you admire the most and why?
I particularly appreciate the history of Paul Janssen and his ability for leading an international pharmaceutical company without abandoning his direct involvement in the successful discovery of new drugs.
Which paper of yours you are the proudest of and why?
The papers that we have published about the DisGeNET resource, for instance the last one recently published in Nucleic Acids Research. I am also proud of my paper in Nature Reviews in Drug Discovery in which we reported the results of the IMI eTOX project on data sharing in predictive toxicology.
Which field of medicinal chemistry do you consider the most promising in the future?
I am probably biased in this respect, but I think that the computational methods and tools offer great opportunities to medicinal chemistry. In particular, the joint exploitation of the biological, chemical and medical big data is very promising for improving the drug discovery process.
What would you like to ask from other medicinal chemists?
I would ask my colleagues to keep them always open-minded, combining their deep experience in the field of their specialization with a global scientific perspective.
What would you guess to be the next major breakthrough in medicinal chemistry?
Given my current professional focus, I do not have a deep insight on all the facets of the medicinal chemistry. However, I think that the incorporation of the systems biology perspective in the design of new drugs offers interesting perspectives.
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