Monthly Newsletter July 2020


EFMC actively promotes equal opportunity, honesty, fairness, transparency, and aims at an inclusive representation of all its members in its activities. It acts with the highest degree of professionalism and ethical values, stands up for the principles it promotes, and strives to have a positive influence in the scientific community. It encourages diversity of views, and participation in its initiatives and scientific events independently of gender, nationality, personal characteristics or circumstances.

EFMC calls on all medicinal chemists and chemical biologists to actively support these values in their daily activities, and provide suggestions to reinforce their implementation across EFMC undertakings.


Due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic, the EFMC has decided to hold a series of virtual events throughout the week of September 7-11, 2020. Our aim is to appeal to the broad medicinal chemistry and chemical biology community with a high quality programme, and we hope to see you soon.  


  • EFMC-ISMC Virtual Event 2020: First Time Disclosures & Late Breaking News

A 2-day Virtual Event will take place on September 7-8, 2020. Two online Sessions will focus on First Time Disclosures & Late Breaking News. Cutting-edge science will be presented by 9 invited speakers giving you the opportunity to learn about the latest developments from the safety of your home or office.

Website & Registration: 

  • EFMC-ISMC & EFMC-YMCS Virtual Poster Session

For all those who were looking forward to giving posters in Basel at EFMC-ISMC and EFMC-YMCS, the EFMC Young Scientists Network is happy to announce a 24h virtual poster event on September 9.

Website, Registration & Abstract Submission:

  • EFMC-YMCS Virtual Event 2020: 7th EFMC Young Medicinal Chemists' Symposium 

The 7th edition of the EFMC-YMCS will take place as free virtual event on September 10-11, 2020.

The programme will feature two keynote lectures by Prof. Pablo Rivera Fuentes (EPFL, Switzerland) and Prof. Angela Russell (University of Oxford, United Kingdom), 12 oral communications by invited prize winners from national young medicinal chemist meetings in Europe, and two soft-skills training sessions organised by the EFMC Young Scientists Network.

Website & registrations :


The “literature spotlight” section of the newsletter will bring you a summary of the recently published research in a concise and readable way. Multiple thematics from different journals will be highlighted thanks to the valuable contribution of Dr Clemens Zwergel (University of Rome, IT) from the communication team.

This fifth contribution will focus on the recently published article on an innovative way to incorporate selenium into drug libraries (by Xu et al. in Angewandte Chemie).

Selenium-containing compounds represented in the last years an emerging promise for the treatment of viral infections, tumor development and dissemination, as well as for their role in drug delivery. Still, selenium is often considered as a toxic element with few beneficial effects. However, considerable advances in the understanding of the complex biology and chemistry related to this element and its incorporation in bioactive molecules have been made.

Xu et al. have just published an innovative rhodium(III)-catalysis based C-H selenylation method for creating a selenium-containing DNA-encoded chemical library (SeDELs). They demonstrated that their novel bifunctional selenide reagent was useful in both off- and on-DNA C−H selenylation reactions under rhodium(III) catalysis. This finding is important as conventional direct C−H selenylation suffers from a limited atom economy and complex reaction conditions. The authors designed benzoselenazolone as a novel bifunctional selenide reagent, allowing them to prepare a series of selenylation products containing an adjacent aminoacyl group in a fast and efficient way, with high atom economy in good to excellent yields. Moreover, the synthetic application of this method was well demonstrated by taking advantage of the amide functionality as a nucleophile, a directing group, and a coupling partner. The authors not only gave insight into the plausible reaction mechanism but also demonstrated the excellent functional group tolerance of this reaction, which proved to be fast, scalable, redox-neutral, as well as air and water insensitive.

The innovative approach and the promising data will hopefully allow to accelerate the development of selenium-containing drugs significantly.

H. Xu, Y. Gu, S. Zhang, H. Xiong, F. Ma, F. Lu, Q. Ji, L. Liu, P. Ma, W. Hou, G. Yang, R. A. Lerner, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2020, 59, 13273. A Chemistry for Incorporation of Selenium into DNA''.chr('8208').''Encoded Libraries. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.. doi: 10.1002/anie.202003595


After three successful events and a short summer break, the EFMC-YSN MedChemBioOnline returns for a fourth instalment on September 29, 2020.

The free to attend webinars, mixing science, soft-skills trainings and round table discussions, have been created to meet the current needs of our scientific community to continue interacting and sharing ideas and innovation, as well as providing early career scientists with opportunities to listen to outstanding scientists and expand their knowledge.

Missed the previous editions of the EFMC-YSN MedChemBioOnline? Have a look at the website and EFMC YouTube Channel to find some recorded content.


The first #Iamamedicinalchemist of this summer edition is the 2020 Prous Institute - Overton and Meyer Award for New Technologies in Drug Discovery winner, Prof. Gisbert Schneider from ETH Zürich, Switzerland. 

How did you get interested in Medicinal Chemistry?

My first encounter with medicinal chemistry was during my studies of biochemistry and medicine. I was immediately fascinated by the fact that small molecules can modulate complex living systems, and was hooked right from the start. Understanding the interactions between effector molecules and their receptors remains one of my scientific passions.

What was the topic of your PhD project?
During my PhD project at the Freie Universität Berlin I developed the first computational approach to autonomous ‘generative’ molecular de novo design with artificial neural networks. These were humble beginnings compared to today’s technology, but it was all there in the early 1990s already.

Where did you have your postdoc position?
I had the great opportunity to visit several laboratories as a Boehringer Ingelheim Fellow, including the M.I.T. in Cambridge, MA (with Prof. Schimmel), the Benjamin Franklin Clinic in Berlin (with Prof. Wrede), the University of Stockhom (with Prof. von Heijne), and the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt am Main (with Prof. Schulten).

What are your current research interests?
My current research focus is on the development and application of drug discovery methodology with artificial intelligence. We specifically aim to capture the diversity of natural products by help of machine learning, and use these models to generate synthetically accessible mimetics with the desired pharmacological properties.

What do you like most in your job?
The best about my job is the freedom to explore new things every day. There is so much to discover.
My position as a university professor includes teaching and research, but also administrative duties. In addition, I always seek the interaction between my research group and the pharmaceutical industry which helps us focus on the relevant questions for the application of our methods.

What do you consider your biggest achievement in your scientific career?
My greatest scientific achievement may be my persistence to continue developing and applying ‘artificial intelligence’ methods to medicinal chemistry over a period of three decades, against all odds.

Which scientist do you admire the most and why?
If I had to pick, I would probably choose Fridtjof Nansen, whose scientific achievements and humanitarian work I very much admire. Scientists are diplomats after all.

Which paper of yours you are the proudest of and why?
I had to think about the answer to this question for a while. To me, scientific papers are no more than protocols summarizing one’s thoughts and the state of knowledge at a given time. I am not ‘proud’ of a paper per se, but would probably pick a publication from 1994 (Biophys. J. 66, 335-344), despite all of its shortcomings. In this original publication we present the first adaptive molecular design algorithm that was able to generate new bioactive molecules (bioactivity of the de novo designs was confirmed in a later study), learn from experience, and generalize. This concept still provides the template for contemporary generative de novo design methods and active learning approaches in medicinal chemistry.

Did you experience any unfair situations during your scientific career?
Much could I say about this topic. I have experienced personal and scientific breakdowns facing vile treatment and spitefulness by fellow scientists. Importantly, I learned that the perception of unfair treatment must not cloud one’s own judgement, you have to roll with the punches, and that humility truly is a virtue.

Which field of medicinal chemistry do you consider the most promising in the future?
I am convinced that the advance of artificial intelligence will enable a renaissance of nature-inspired medicinal chemistry with a fresh view on natural products and their mimetics, and the emergent features of complex adaptive systems. ‘Learning from nature’ with this new twist will offer ample opportunity for future medicinal chemistry.

What would you guess to be the next major breakthrough in medicinal chemistry?
My best guess is that we will learn something rather unexpected about virus-host interactions that will lead to innovative treatments of viral infections.


The second #Iamamedicinalchemist of this summer edition is the winner of the 2020 EFMC Prize for Young Medicinal Chemist in Academia, Prof. Ymon Aye from EPFL, Switzerland. 


How did you get interested in Medicinal Chemistry?
The research areas that I was involved in for my master and PhD theses work and postdoctoral training were not Medicinal Chemistry. However, I was fortunate to be trained in two fields, organic chemistry and mechanistic enzymology, by some of the greatest pioneers and erudite scientists in these fields. So when I began my own lab and launched a program to develop technologies that would allow researchers to decode the biological behavior of natural reactive electrophiles with precision, I became more and more aware of how these accumulating data in this field and our own insights directly impinge on covalent drug design. So we started thinking about understanding the precise mode-of-action of emerging electrophilic pharmacophores. This avenue ultimately drew me further into medicinal chemistry and I became very excited about how our work can directly contribute to this field.

What was the topic of your PhD project?
I did my PhD with Professor David A. Evans at Harvard University, USA - The topic was In the area of asymmetric catalysis & new reaction discovery: more specifically, ‘development and applications of organosilanes as stable, environmentally-benign & versatile cabanion equivalents’.

Where do you work at the moment and what is your current position?
At EPFL, I am an associate professor and the director of the laboratory of electrophiles and genome operation (LEAGO)

What are your current research interests?
They have always been rather broad and deeply interdisciplinary. For the most recent years/near future, we are keenly pursuing new knowledge regarding reactive electrophile/covalent-ligand signaling at individual protein-and-ligand-pair-specific and context-specific manner. In parallel, we are also actively researching unexpected moonlighting functions of disease-relevant proteins. In both directions, we strive to see comprehensive mechanistic understanding both in vitro and in relevant living models.

What do you like most in your job?
The simultaneous opportunity to be an educator and an innovator: in terms of the former, the chance to inspire and educate some of the young minds; for the latter, ability to bring something crosscutting to the table that has potential to improve human life and medicine.

What kind of skills your job requires?
In science: thinking, critical evaluation (usually questioning conventional wisdom), innovating non-conventional solutions, seeing the big-picture, finding impactful/relevant problems to work on and designing most-insightful experiments, and last but not least, having a strong work ethic. In team-leading and all other services, good mentors/educators manifest excellent communication skills, team-playing, empathy, selflessness, and giving opportunities for the trainees/mentees to thrive in challenging environments, helping mentees prepare for the good times and the tribulations of the next-step of their careers.

What do you consider your biggest achievement in your scientific career?
Over the 8-year-span of our lab thus far, it would most likely be the opportunity to have offered to the field the previously-inaccessible ability to quantitatively track the ramifications of non-enzyme-assisted covalent protein modifications by reactive electrophiles. This is the idea behind our T-REX technology, and the underlying concept was not thought of before. With T-REX and related techniques, we began to accumulate paradigm-shifting insights into how electrophile-/covalent-ligand-guided signaling functions at low-occupancy and how these individual ligand-guided events control decision-making.

What is the most embarrassing thing you did in the lab while doing experiments?
During my graduate school, shaking a litre-scale separatory-funnel while working up a Shapiro reaction (that was needed for me to prepare a particular vinyl-silane substrate precursor), resulting in N2(g)-driven explosion. Clearly, I wasn’t engaging my brain there.

Which scientist do you admire the most and why?
Several living and deceased, but perhaps the late Dorothy Hodgkin because I was an undergraduate chemist at Oxford University, Somerville College, where Hodgkin once studied as well as tutored chemists. I thus felt I was directly inspired by Dorothy Hodgkin’s scientific legacy. Furthermore, as a student having not had access to proper education before my arrival to the UK at 17, her legacy made a long-lasting impact on my future career goals since my high-school days in the UK.

Did you experience any unfair situations during your scientific career?
It is surprising to me how many of the common unfair situations we find ourselves in are a projection of our own, or someone else’s interpretation of, our own expectations, situation, or status. It is also surprising how the same gripes are pretty common across different scientific career stages/geolocations/situations. So, the answer is, of course, yes, there are many unfair situations out there; and I still frequently encounter situations I consider to be unfair, both to me, and to others. It is just that the ways these manifest, and to some extent what I choose to tolerate that have changed. But regardless of your situation, I think it is important to keep your chin up and find effective ways to overcome/preempt such situations, especially if you’re in a leadership/group-leader role as this is important for students/trainees. At the end of the day, intelligence along with facts should always (though sadly they do not always) win over.

Which field of medicinal chemistry do you consider the most promising in the future?
Medicinal chemistry is one of the few industries where billions, or even trillions, of dollars are exchanged every year trying to turn something off. We’ve spent years turning enzymes off. Now we’re trying to do the same with scaffolding proteins, oncogenes, shallow binding pockets, and so on. We really need to start to look to mining the resources of the proteome actively (i.e., turning something ON), learning how to harness large gains at small loading, for instance. Such power would be revolutionary.

What would you like to ask from other medicinal chemists?
In one phrase, the answer would be ‘improve real-world relevance’. I think that in this field, one can often get carried away with a lot of in-tube studies or using less relevant models, optimizing Kd with not much else, etc. Once some initial hits/lead data have been obtained, it is quite important to move onto more relevant models/start to answer most relevant questions. As a field, we can do better by not being too bogged down with monodimensional readouts, and by being more broad-minded, having a forward-looking outlook, and taking a multi-disciplinary approach. Prior to initiating a project/model system or an assay, it is first useful to ask to what extent what we are designing/pursuing is of relevance to real-world scenarios. We are better off not pursuing a project/set-up/assay, only because of convenience and of it being within our comfort zone.

What would you guess to be the next major breakthrough in medicinal chemistry?
It would be how we understand and manipulate/alter signaling and pathway intersections, and ultimately cell fate/decision making, through gain-of-function activities, i.e., when a ligand binds a target only at low-occupancy. Many drugs and mechanisms-of-action are proven quite effective at sub-stoichiometric target engagement. A similar low-occupancy idea also bodes well for targeting essential genes where complete inhibition is disastrous. However, neither from systems-level or mechanistically, have we even scratched the surface of selectively profiling such proteins (and ligand frameworks) that can be responsive to such gain-of-function druggability.


In these very unusual times, the EFMC decided to adapt the annual "Photo Competition" to the period and run it via Instagram!

How does it work!?

Share your best #backtothelab picture and tag @euromedchem - the most liked picture will win the prize! The .deadline for entry is 31st August.

Please be careful, we might be back to the lab, but the virus is still out there, so be safe and responsible!


The BMCS is planning a series of virtual meetings and is launching a short survey to gather your input on the format they should take.

The BMCS announces a brand-new website and reminds you about the call for the Malcolm Campbell Memorial Prize and the RSC-BMCS Hall of Fame.

The BMCS conference schedule for 2020 has largely been cancelled because many venues are closed. It is also difficult to see how adequate social distancing could be achieved in most venues. Travel restrictions mean that attendance at meetings cannot be confirmed for the foreseeable future. BMCS are, however, keen to support the dissemination and exchange of drug discovery science and we are considering organising “virtual” conferences/meetings. We would greatly appreciate your input on the format of these meetings
Please enter our survey below: BMCS Virtual Conference survey - this should take 5 minutes to complete

The BMCS are pleased to announce the launch of our new website - Please copy this into your favourites and use the link to access the latest information on BMCS activities, symposia and announcements

Nominations should be submitted no later than 31st October 2020 to:
Maggi Churchouse, RSC-BMCS Secretariat, e-mail:
For further details, please access the activities link on

Nominations should be submitted by the end of September 2020 and the outcome will be communicated to nominators and nominees by mid-December 2020. Inductees will receive a medal and certificate, and will be invited to give a plenary lecture at an appropriate BMCS organized conference.
For further details, see the full list of requirements and terms and conditions at
Independent nominations should be sent by e-mail to by 30th September 2020

28th to 29th September 2020

Synopsis: A conference to present the current efforts in applying new methods and practical applications to ongoing challenges in Chemistry, the meeting will combine aspects of artificial intelligence and deep machine learning methods to applications in chemistry.

19th November 2020

Synopsis: Known colloquially as the "Hatfield MedChem" meeting, this is a highly successful, long-standing, one-day annual meeting. The meeting aims to be informal and interactive, and offers excellent scientific development and networking opportunities for all those working in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery.




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September 7-8, 2020
EFMC-ISMC Virtual Event 2020: First Time Disclosures & Late Breaking News

September 9, 2020
EFMC-ISMC & EFMC-YMCS Virtual Poster Session

September 10-11, 2020
EFMC-YMCS Virtual Event 2020: Virtual 7th EFMC Young Medicinal Chemist Symposium

October 18-21, 2020
Oegstgeest, The Netherlands
16th EFMC Short Course on Medicinal Chemistry: New Opportunities in GPCR Drug Discovery


October 26-27, 2020 
Eindhoven, The Netherlands
A Joint Future for Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology in the Netherlands

November 5-7, 2020
Athens, Greece
18th Hellenic Symposium on Medicinal Chemistry (HSMC-18)


Senior Research Scientist – Synthetic/Medicinal Chemistry (PROTAC), AstraZeneca R&D, Early R&I Medicinal Chemistry, Gothenburg, Sweden

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Senior Research Scientist – Synthetic/Medicinal Chemistry, AstraZeneca R&D, Early R&I Medicinal Chemistry, Gothenburg, Sweden

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PhD Position, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

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Research Chemist - Organic Synthesis, Spirochem, Basel, Switzerland

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Research Associate - Organic Synthesis, Spirochem, Basel, Switzerland

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