Monthly Newsletter July 2021


The EFMC Young Scientists Network is pleased to announce the first edition of "Medicinal Chemistry: A Global Perspective", a webinar jointly organised with the ACS MEDI Young Medicinal Chemists Committee.

The goals will be to introduce the audience of early career scientists to the key concepts of Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology, to offer them the opportunity to get to know the scientists and hear their stories, and to boost networking opportunities between Europe and North America.

Join us for this 1h30 free event, split between a 45' keynote lecture and a 45' round table discussion on July 13 @ 05.00pm CEST/11.00am EST/08.00am PDT.


Hit to Lead Process in Drug Discovery

  • Dr Subharekha Raghavan (Merck & Co, United States)

Round Table Discussion: "The Stories Behind the Medicinal Chemists"

  • Dr Erika Arujo (Arvinas, United States)
  • Dr Etienne J. Donckele (Philochem, Switzerland)
  • Prof. Matthias Gehringer (University of Tübingen, Germany)
  • Prof. Craig Lindsley (Vanderbilt University, United States)
  • Dr Subharekha Raghavan (Merck & Co, United States)

This event is generously supported by Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Register on:

Medicinal Chemistry


The “literature spotlight” section of the newsletter will bring you a summary of the recently published research in a concise and readable way. Papers covering a range of medicinal chemistry and chemical biology from a variety of journals will be explored by Dr Clemens Zwergel (University of Rome, IT) from the Communication Team.

This latest contribution will focus on the recently published article on “Addressing a Trapped High-Energy Water: Design and Synthesis of Highly Potent Pyrimidoindole-Based Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3β Inhibitors” (by Andreev et al. in Journal of Medicinal Chemistry).

Protein kinases are a vast class of enzymes known for their fundamental role in cellular signalling. Over the last few decades, glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) was extensively studied in an academic and industrial context and its dysregulation has been observed in various pathologies, such as type II diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.

Very recently Andreev et al. published a low nanomolar GSK-3β inhibitor based on the newly available crystal structure by improving upon their previous compound by nearly two orders of magnitude.

Water is still often seen in drug design as a passive bystander rather than as an active player in the binding site influencing the potency of the inhibitor. In this case, the authors targeted a trapped high-energy water molecule to lower the energy in the HR-I site. Surprisingly, this high-energy water molecule was not displaced by their potent inhibitor (S)-15, but only slightly shifted leading to a dramatic decrease of energy at the hydration site, which was confirmed by a WaterMap analysis and molecular dynamics simulations.

Furthermore, their best compound S-(15) was assessed for its selectivity and it was found to possess a favourable profile. Next (S)-15 was evaluated for its target engagement in a NanoBRET assay together with neuroprotective effects against H2O2 and the reduced autophosphorylation of GSK-3 in neuronal SH-SY5Y cells.

The work is particularly interesting as it has been shown for the first time that only a small adjustment in the location of a high-energy water can be very decisive for ligand binding. The authors underlined the relevance of water-guided in silico approaches for the ligand design process via the application of only subtle changes.

Stanislav Andreev, Tatu Pantsar, Roberta Tesch, Niclas Kahlke, Ahmed El-Gokha, Francesco Ansideri, Lukas Grätz, Jenny Romasco, Giulia Sita, Christian Geibel, Michael Lämmerhofer, Andrea Tarozzi, Stefan Knapp, Stefan A. Laufer, and Pierre Koch*

Addressing a Trapped High-Energy Water: Design and Synthesis of Highly Potent Pyrimidoindole-Based Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3β Inhibitors

J. Med. Chem. 2021, in press

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.0c02146 PMID: 34213342


To support the EFMC efforts in showcasing the continuum between Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology, we need your contribution to share the best picture representing your vision of "Bridging MedChem and ChemBio".

Do you feel up to the challenge!?

We want scientists from any level and affiliation to take the best shot possible and enter the competition!

The submitted pictures will be judged by a first round of online voting and the 20 best shots will be showcased at the EFMC-ISMC 2021 for attendees to vote live!

Submit your best picture and win up to €200 in the EFMC’s photo competition!

Deadline to submit your picture is August 10, 2021.

Visit for more information.


In this edition, our #Iamamedicinalchemist is Anna Junker from the European Institute for Molecular Imaging (University of Münster), Germany. Get to know her better by reading our interview below.

Anna Junker

How did you get interested in Medicinal Chemistry?

I always loved chemistry; my mum is an analytical chemist and I always loved to visit her at work. I had hard time deciding whether to study Chemistry or Pharmacy. I ultimately decided to study Pharmacy since I not only wanted to learn how the molecules are made but also understand what they do with the human body. Medicinal Chemistry allows me to combine these two aspects: great organic chemistry and pharmacology.

Where and when did you obtain your PhD diploma?

In 2013 at the University of Münster, in the group of Prof. Dr. B. Wünsch.

What was the topic of your PhD project?

Synthesis of Novel Chemokine Receptor 5 Antagonists by Late-Stage Diversification and Evaluation of their Structure Affinity Relationships. It was the perfect topic for me, combining novel chemistry (C-H activation) with interesting pharmacology. The work was also highly interdisciplinary, which I particularly enjoyed.

Where did you have your postdoc position?

My first postdoctoral position was in the group of Prof. Dr. C. E. Müller, Bonn University, working on a project within the Neuroalliance Consortium´. It was a collaboration project with UCB pharma, which provided me with the opportunity to get insight into the industrial site of research.

My second postdoc position was in the group of Prof. Dr. K. A. Jacobson at the NIH, Bethesda. Here I worked on several projects: adenosine receptor ligands, P2Y14 receptor antagonists and had the opportunity to start the project on CD73 inhibitors in collaboration with C. E. Müller.

Where are you currently working and what is your current position?

My own research group, funded by the Emmy-Noether program of the German research foundation, is located at the European Institute for Molecular Imaging (EIMI) at the University of Münster. We design, synthesize, and pharmacologically characterize novel receptor ligands for diagnostic and therapeutic applications in the fields of cancer, inflammation, and neuropathic pain. 

How would you explain what your research area is to non-scientists?

We create molecules to answer diagnostic questions and help to develop new therapies.

What do you like best about your work?

It is never dull or boring. Every day you learn something new, get a new piece of the puzzle.

What kind of skills does your work require?

My work consists of teaching and research. For teaching, you need good communication and presentation skills. For research, besides enthusiasm and perseverance, you require a lot of management skills: you have to be in the moment and think ahead at the same time. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your scientific career?

Well, I more or less recently started my independent career; therefore, I hope my greatest achievement is still to come. 

Which of your papers are you most proud of and why?

The one I am currently preparing on the imaging of CD73 expression in cancer.

How many PhD students and postdocs do you currently supervise?

6 PhDs, 2 Master students, no postdocs at the moment

What are the features of a successful PhD student or postdoc?

I always tell my PhD students 6 months in their project, they should be able to tell me something about their target that I do not know. Knowing the literature and good planning is in my opinion as important as enthusiasm and perseverance in research.

How would you describe yourself as a supervisor?

I try to create a productive environment and enough space for every group member to pursue their research projects and develop themselves. I think it is important to treat every person with equal respect and decency regardless of their position or status from intern to professor. This is the mantra I live by as a private person and as a supervisor. I don’t take myself too seriously.

When I get an idea, I go straight to the lab to discuss it. One of my PhD students just recently told me: What’s up? You have that look on your face again.’ We laughed, discussed, and a new subproject was born. I think this pretty much describes me as a supervisor.

What is the most embarrassing thing you have done in the lab while doing experiments, e.g. explosions?

Well, during my time at the NIH, I quenched what I thought was a little bit of NaH on the balance with isopropanol (standard procedure of traces of NaH), overlooking that a bigger piece of NaH got under the balance. The moment it got in contact with some isopropanol, it caught fire. Besides burning down the balance and the mess caused by the fire distinguisher, nothing bad happened. I was embarrassed and devasted. Ken Jacobson laughed it off and told me ‘I wish this will be the worst and the only bad thing happening to you throughout your career.’ So far, his wish came true.

What are your recommendations for a book, podcast, website, blog, YouTube channel or film?

I like the novel Cantor’s dilemma by Carl Djerassi, Dr. GPCR podcast. I cannot think of a recommendation for a film for science, but don’t get me started on recommendations for movies in general unless you want to hear everything about Quentin Tarantino’s work.

Which scientist do you admire the most and why?

There are many scientists I admire and look up to, but Ernest Rutherford would be the one I admire the most, not only for his immense contributions in Physics and Chemistry but also for his inspirational leadership (eleven of his students received a Nobel prize) and for his modesty.

Have you experienced any unfair situations during your scientific career?

Fairness is a complex matter. I do not consider myself experiencing unfair situations with a significant impact on my career so far. In my opinion, sometimes situations can be quickly diffused by addressing the issue upfront.

Which field of medicinal chemistry do you consider the most promising for the future?

Incorporation of AI in drug development.

What would you expect to be the next major breakthrough in medicinal chemistry?

The development of checkpoint inhibitors for cancer therapy, it has already provided some great results, but I am certain there is more to come. 


The posting of Job/PhD & Post-Doc offers is free and is available for any Med Chem related jobs, in industry as well as academic positions.

Job posting can be carried out easily by sharing the PDF or URL of the job application. 

Once reviewed, the position will be available on the EFMC website and in our monthly newsletter.


The BMCS announces some upcoming events:

  • 21st RSC/SCI Medicinal Chemistry Symposium (Poster deadline is July 23)
  • 4th Artificial Intelligence in Chemistry (Poster deadline is August 13)
  • 3rd RSC / SCI Symposium on Antimicrobial Drug Discovery

VIRTUAL - 21st RSC / SCI Medicinal Chemistry Symposium

12th to 15th September 2021, Churchill College, Cambridge, UK

The call for poster abstracts will close on 23rd July


Synopsis:  One of Europe’s premier biennial Medicinal Chemistry event, focusing on first disclosures and new strategies in medicinal chemistry


VIRTUAL - 4th Artificial Intelligence in Chemistry - NEW!

27th and 28th September 2021

The call for poster abstracts will close on 13th August (poster)


Synopsis:  Artificial Intelligence is presently experiencing a renaissance in the development of 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


VIRTUAL - 3rd  RSC / SCI Symposium on Antimicrobial Drug Discovery

15th and 16th November 2021


Synopsis:  Coinciding with WHO’s World Antibiotics Awareness week, this two-day meeting will examine the latest advances in antimicrobial drug discovery from a medicinal chemist’s perspective, focusing on the particular challenges associated with developing antimicrobials whilst also showcasing emerging strategies for tackling infection.



ChemBridge is a leading provider of screening libraries and chemistry services for drug discovery and chemical biology. With over 1.3M small molecules and macrocycles in stock available for cherry-picking ChemBridge will also soon be offering single-use, assay-ready diversity libraries for discovery research.

Read more


August 29-September 2, 2021
EFMC-ISMC 2021 - XXVI EFMC International Symposium on Medicinal Chemistry

September 9-10, 2021
EFMC-YMCS 2021 - 8th EFMC Young Medicinal Chemists’ Symposium

May 8-11, 2022
Oegstgeest, The Netherlands
16th EFMC Short Course on Medicinal Chemistry New Opportunities in GPCR Drug Discovery


September 12-15, 2021
21st RSC / SCI Medicinal Chemistry Symposium

October 5-8, 2021
Volgograd, Russia
5th Russian Conference on Medicinal Chemistry

October 20-22, 2021
Albacete, Spain
XIII Workshop of SEQT: Therapies with light and New Advanced Therapies


September 13 – 17, 2021
EUROPIN Summer School on Drug Design

September 22-24, 2021
Summer School in Pharmaceutical Analysis (SSPA2021)


Post-doc and PhD Positions in Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, EPFL, Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering, Lausanne, Switzerland
Read more

Chemical Biologist, Almirall, Research & Development, Barcelona, Spain
Read more

PhD position in Radiochemistry, University of Antwerp, Molecular Imaging Center, Antwerp, Belgium
Read more

Drug Hunter @Aqemia, AQEMIA, Paris, France
Read more

Find us on social media

EFMC Facebook EFMC Twitter EFMC LinkedIn EFMC Instagram