Monthly Newsletter April 2018


In this and the next MedChemWatch, we would like to introduce you to EFMC’s new Communication Team. EFMC hopes to draw on the particular skills of the upcoming generation of medicinal chemists and chemical biologists to developits presence on social media, and help to raise awareness and visibility of Medicinal Chemistry inside and outside our community.

Meet the team:

Paula Morales is a postdoctoral fellow at the Instituto de Química Física Rocasolano at the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) in Madrid. In 2015 she obtained her PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from the Instituto de Química Médica-CSIC. Her thesis project was centered on the design, synthesis and evaluation of novel cannabinoid ligands. During a two year postdoctoral stay at the University of North Carolina she focused on the computational study of orphan GPCRs. She has co-authored 3 patents and over 25 peer-reviewed scholarly articles ( Her passion towards Medicinal Chemistry comes from its intrinsic multidisciplinary nature. The possibility of identifying novel drugs to help fighting diseases fascinates her. She joined the EFMC communication team to help sharing, discussing and enjoying medicinal chemistry in a friendly atmosphere.


Mary Wheldon works as a medicinal chemist within the Drug Discovery Unit at the University of Dundee, UK. This is involves work on very early drug discovery projects, synthesising compounds, investigating targets and proof of concept work. I previously worked at University College London, within the Translational Research Office Drug Discovery Group, doing a 2-year structured postdoctoral training program. I had the opportunity to work with large and small pharmaceutical companies and in academia. Before this, I studied for my PhD at the University of York with Prof Peter O'Brien on the design and synthesis of 3-D fragments. The thing I enjoy the most about my job is having an impact (even if small) on the health and well-being of the World’s population.


My name is Raisa Haavikko and I live in Vantaa, Finland. I got my PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the end of 2015 from University of Helsinki. In my PhD I synthesized derivatives of betulin, which can be extracted from the outer layer of birch bark. The derivatives were tested against prostate cancer, leishmaniasis, inflammation factors and cannabinoid receptors. My PhD studies included a six months research visit to Monash University in Melbourne. I did a postdoc at University of Helsinki in a hit-to-lead drug discovery project under ENABLE consortium. The aim of the project is to develop new antibiotics against Gram-negative bacteria. Currently I am in between jobs, and my dream would be to work as a member of a medical team in a Pharma company. I find science communication very important, and in EFMC’s communication team I can do my part to advance the field.

Matt Tozer is an independent medicinal chemistry consultant, who works with clients across the research & development and service sectors.  Notable recent collaborations have included: the University of Sheffield on a substantial small-molecule oncology programme; Cyclofluidic on its AI-driven, integrated discovery services; and Ubiquigent on its DUB-inhibitor platform.  Matt has a wealth of experience of leadership and management in the biotech and contract research sectors.  As Director of Peakdale Chemistry Services, he was Head of Site for Peakdale’s pioneering embedded unit at Pfzir, UK.  In parallel, he was Peakdale’s Director of Medicinal Chemistry Services.  He was Director of Medicinal Chemistry UK for the Anglo-Swedish biotech Medivir and is proud to have earned his spurs as a medicinal chemist under the aegis of Sir James Black at the James Black Foundation.  Matt is an active and dedicated contributor to the Royal Society of Chemistry, notably through the Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Sector and the Organic Division.  He is a member of the Executive Committee for the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry.  He is too old to know much about social media, but cuts, pastes and presses buttons with youthful enthusiasm.

You want to get in touch with us, share content or suggest ideas? Please do so by writing to


Building up on the positive feedbacks and social media success of the project "I am a Medicinal Chemist/Chemical Biologist", we have now a page on the EFMC website compiling all the interviews.

We strongly invite you to have a look at them here, and get inspired!

Want to share your story with us? Write us at

Antti Poso, University of Eastern Finland & University of Tübingen, Germany

How did you get interested in Medicinal Chemistry?
I was extremely bad in organic chemistry :) However, at the same time when I was selecting my major subject a new research field at the University of Kuopio had just been started: molecular modelling. It looked quite interesting and I thought it makes sense to use computers to study chemical topics.

Where do you work at the moment and what is your current position?
I am a bit strange in this sense, as I work both in Finland and in Germany. In Finland my position is a professor of drug design at the University of Eastern Finland while in Germany I work as Distinguished Guest Professor at the University of Tübingen. Typically I work around 2 weeks per month in both places and the rest is somewhere between (or somewhere else). So, in short, I am very much liked by Finnair and probably very close to the top ten blacklisted people by Greenpeace…

What are your current research interests?
Anti-cancer drug design, understanding the solvation and desolvation effects in drug binding and the design of new antibacterial compounds. Target validation is a topic I am also really interested in, as even the best compound can do very little if the target is not good enough.

What do you like the most about your job?
Science is the best part. To find something new. It is great to recognize that we are able to actually design new compounds and those compounds are doing what we want, like killing cancer cells.

What do you consider your biggest achievement in your scientific career?
All the PhDs from my group. I think that is the most important and best measurement of how good we are. All the papers are nothing, as those will be found to be (at least most) wrong…

What is the most embarrassing thing you did in the lab while doing experiments, e.g. explosions?
Sorry, no explosions since I work with computers (although I overheated one once…). I have once also accidentally totally wiped out the hard drive but this is (I think) not that special.

Which scientist do you admire the most and why?
Brian Kobilka: he continued his research topic even against the “common knowledge”. It was a generally accepted fact that there is not so much interest in studying any more G-protein coupled receptors, but thanks to his work, this is not the case anymore.

Which paper of yours are you the proudest of and why?
For me the most important paper is still not published yet. And I think it will be always that way. I know that all the models I have created are wrong but some of the models can be used. That’s the fact.

What would you guess to be the next major breakthrough in medicinal chemistry?
If I could tell that I would be already making this breakthrough myself. I believe a good candidate is better integration of theoretical methods (like docking and library design) with combinatorial chemistry library construction. I also believe that usage of MD simulations will become a standard tool in drug design.

Nadine Jagerovic, Medicinal Chemistry Institute, Spain

How did you get interested in Medicinal Chemistry?
After having defended my thesis which was oriented on materials, I was actually feeling that I could even enjoy more research if I could focus my chemistry on biochemistry, biology and medicine. It is why I did my postdoc in a medicinal chemistry lab.

Where and when did you obtain your PhD diploma?
I am originally from Beaune in France, and I obtained my PhD diploma in 1991 from the University of Burgundy. The research group was very dynamic and I really enjoy a kind of family atmosphere.

What was the topic of your PhD project?
I worked on metalloporphyrins. They are fascinating structures having precious colours. However, due to their instability to oxygen and water, once they were getting brown, you knew that the reaction needed to be set up again. The purpose was getting porphyrin-based polymeric conductors.

Where did you have your postdoc position?
I got my first two-years-postdoc position at the University of California Davis (USA) founded by a NIH grant. There, I could apply the porphyrin chemistry to the photodynamic therapy. This therapy was just emerging and it was so exciting to be part of the adventure. San Francisco was close, which only increased the pleasure to be postdoc.
Then I got my second two-years-postdoc position at the Medicinal Chemistry Institute in Madrid (Spain) thanks to a Marie-Curie-fellowship in the EU human capital mobility program.

Where do you work at the moment and what is your current position?
I reside in Spain and I have been working at the Medicinal Chemistry Institute in Madrid for more than twenty years. How time flies! I am a Senior Research Scientist of the Spanish Research Council.

What are your current research interests?
These last 15 years, I have been developing my research in the cannabinoid field. As a medicinal chemist, my research is focussed on designing new entities acting on the endocannabinoid system. Due to the increasing public interest for the medicinal cannabis, studying its mechanism of action and designing new molecules with reduced psychotropic effects is a personally fulfilled research.

What do you consider your biggest achievement in your scientific career?
The day that I think having accomplished my biggest achievement, I better stop doing research. There is no way to be satisfied, learning is the best achievement. Another kind of achievement for me is the pleasure realizing that my students are getting scientifically independent. This is probably my mother-hen side coming up.

How many PhD and postdoc students do you have at the moment?
Are you currently looking for a new PhD and postdoc students?
In the group, we have one PhD student, three graduates and soon another postdoc student. Depending on the grants or company contracts, we might offer PhD positions. But, be aware, the candidate is not only selected by myself, my students participate in this selection.

How would you describe yourself as a supervisor?
I never feel to be a supervisor. I am as my students are, part of the group. I usually prefer to let them develop their research and be there when they need me as an advisor. That does not stop me being mother-hen.

What is the most embarrassing thing you did in the lab while doing experiments?
I experienced fire, small explosion but the most embarrassing concerned a new computer. That was a long, very long time ago, I change my Mac computer for PC. The first day I clean the screen in my way and the next day I could not start the computer. A computer scientist took it to repair and two days later asked me who was the person that move the boot disks in a folder named “No idea”.

Which scientist do you admire the most and why?
I am a “fan” of Professor Mechoulam, the father of the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). I admire him as researcher and as a person. This is one of the most generous person I know. He has been collaborating with hundreds of researchers. He is always smiling and full of energy despite his age. For years, he has been the research engine of all of us, he inspires most of us in the field of medicinal cannabis.

Did you experience any unfair situations during your scientific carrier?
We all experienced such situations from time to time, but this is always better not spending too much time and energy in it.
Which paper of yours you are the proudest of and why?
I am never fully proud of a paper, but I actually like the papers that are the results of several nice collaborations with friends.

Which field of medicinal chemistry do you consider the most promising in the future?
Personalized medicine is emerging. It will be so interesting to be able to treat patients based on their predicted response or risk of disease. Medicinal chemist can help in this direction with their expertise.

What would you guess to be the next major breakthrough in medicinal chemistry?
I hope that neglected tropical diseases and cancer can find treatments. In the case of the tropical diseases, Foundations as the one of Steve Job, finance international grants. For instance, research is currently in an advance stage with the existence of a cheap unique-dose antimalarial agent. Treatment of cancer will be personalized decreasing side-effects.

Riccardo Provenzani, University of Helsinki, Finland

How did you get interested in Medicinal Chemistry?
Well, long time ago as a kid I always wanted to play with one of my best friends who owned the game “Il Piccolo Chimico” (“The Little Chemist”) and try to create new revolutionary potions. Then, during my Master’s programme in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology at the University of Pavia, the combo Molecular Modelling/Drug Design/Synthesis totally blew my mind—apparently that little chemist was still kicking for new discoveries. So after the Erasmus exchange in Finland I stayed for my PhD studies.

What is the topic of your PhD project?
I synthesize new compounds targeted to the C1 domain of protein kinase C to investigate new therapeutic approaches for cancer and Alzheimer's disease. I am also developing a new affinity chromatography device to understand the mechanism of action of the compounds.

What do you like most about your job?
The dynamicity! Every day can be different and full of surprises, whether good or bad.

What tasks does your job include?
Experimental design, plenty of lab work, troubleshooting and writing. PhD students in Finland also have “teaching duties” so I supervise bachelor/master students and assist lab courses or tutor exercise sessions for pharmacy students. As side tasks I take care of few instruments like our flash purification system and NMR spectrometer.

What skills does your job require?
Being open minded, co-operative, willing to learn new things and ready for sudden change of plans!

What is the most embarrassing thing you did in the lab while doing experiments?
I was going to run a reaction in the microwave but it was occupied so I decided place the vial (sealed) in a oil bath, to run the reaction in my fume hood. The conditions were neat so just the 2 reagents, no solvents required...except I didn't pay attention to the small percentage of DCM present in one of the two reagents. So, I turned the heating on and in the meanwhile I went to finish a flash purification in the adjacent lab. After few minutes I heard "POOOM". I ran back to find my lab-mate frozen, totally pale and looking at me with wide opened eyes, my reaction scattered all around the top part of the hood and the broken bath leaking silicon oil all over the hood bench..."oops"...

Federico Munafò - Looking for a Ph.D. Position

What is your current position?
I am a just graduated in medicinal chemistry and pharmaceutical technology from University of Pisa and now I am looking for a PhD position. Meanwhile I am working in a laboratory where I perform chemical analysis on food contact materials.

How did you get interested in Medicinal Chemistry?
I have been addicted to chemistry since high school thanks to incredible teachers. During my last year I had the opportunity to spend some days in a research center where I met a research group focused on the development of polymers for medical uses. This meeting made me curious about application of chemistry in the medical field. That’s how I met medicinal chemistry and I fell in love with it. Figure out how a pill of a NSAID can ease the pain by applying organic chemistry is really amazing, isn’t it?

What are your current research interest?
My master thesis project, which has been carried out at the University of Copenhagen in the research group headed by Associate Professor Anders Bach, was focused on ischaemic stroke. Depletion of oxygen and glucose, due to blood flow reduction, initiates a series of biochemical reactions after minutes of ischaemia, together called ischaemic cascade, that lead to the production of reactive oxygen species, and at present the only available therapy focuses on restoring an adequate flow of blood to the brain without counteract oxidative stress. An emerging therapeutic strategy against ischaemic stroke is to disrupt the protein-protein interaction between Nrf2 and its repressor protein Keap1, thus boosting the Nrf2-dependent defence against oxidative stress.

What do you like most in your job?
Undoubtedly, I like to wake up in the morning without knowing what the day holds for me. I don’t want to write “see yesterday” every evening on my diary. This job gives the opportunity to do different things. One day you can be an organic chemist and the day after you can perform biochemical tests. Another aspect that I really like is that team work is the basis of this job. You cannot achieve results without the contribution of your workmates, but, at the same time, your work is fundamental to reach the goal. Finally, interdisciplinary meetings are always a good opportunity to learn something new.

What kind of task your job includes?
I work in a chemical synthesis laboratory. My tasks involves organic synthesis, characterisation and purification of compounds with different scaffolds, such as sulfonamides, benzo[7]annulene derivates, and benzotriazole derivates. Furthermore, I prepare presentations about my work for group meetings and I daily update my laboratory book.

What kind of skills your job requires?
From a professional standpoint, a good knowledge of organic chemistry and spectroscopy (mainly NMR and Mass Spectroscopy) makes the job easier. Except for these “standard” requires, I think that motivation, curiosity and perseverance are keys issue to succeed in this regard. Research is certainly fascinating, but quite often could be stressful. We should learn from failures. As is often said, bad results are still results. Well, you know, it is just the way life is. Another key require is the ability to work as a team. We must be cohesive team. As I said previously, you can not achieve results without the contribution of your workmates, but, at the same time, your work is fundamental to reach the goal.

What is the most embarrassing thing you did in the lab while doing experiments?
Sorry, I have not bombed any laboratory yet. However, once I was synthesising a new compound starting from a mercaptan and probably I did not close properly the reagent vial or the reaction vessel. What is certain is that a stench was smelled all around the laboratory. At the next group meeting we talked about the project...and why mercaptans have a disgusting smell.

Which scientist do you admire the most and why?
That’s a tough question. I admire for sure Giulio Natta. HIs studies leaded to the synthesis of polypropylene and we all well know the importance of this polymer in our daily life. I also admire Margherita Hack for her professional highlights, but mainly for her activities outside of science and her thoughts about ethic. Finally, I admire Alexander Fleming. I guess we all agree that his discovery changed the fate of a lot of people


Here you will find the important information you need on upcoming “EFMC Sponsored events”.

4th RSC / DMDG New Perspectives in DMPK - May 21-22, 2018 -  London, United Kingdom

Poster abstract deadline is April 23!

Bursary application deadline is April 9!

EUFEPS Annual Meeting 2018 - May 24-26, 2018 - Athens, Greece

Abstract submission deadline has been extended until April 13!

1st BMCS / CICAG Artificial Intelligence in Chemistry - June 15, 2018 - London, United Kingdom

Poster abstract deadline is April 13!

Bursary application deadline is May 3!

54th International Conference on Medicinal Chemistry (RICT 2018) - July 4-6, 2018 - Strasbourg, France

Abstract submission deadline & Early Bird fee is May 15!

Italian-Spanish-Portuguese Joint Meeting in Medicinal Chemistry “MedChemSicily2018” - July 17-20, 2018 - Palermo, Italy

Abstract submission deadline is April 30!


As representative of the EFMC, I participated in the CPA-EFMC 2017 Meeting, held in Beijing on August 27-30, 2017.

Since August 2016, where a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between our two associations during the EFMC-ISMC meeting in Manchester, an exchange of sessions has been organised, and the EFMC was thrilled to set the next milestone of our collaboration.

The scientific symposium was a great success, with around 1700 participants – mostly from mainland China, but representing a huge growth from earlier meetings where there were only about 250 attendees.

The EFMC session on ‘Inducing protein degrading as a new drug discovery strategy’ was a major success. From the reactions of participants that they appreciated the very well attended session extremely, considering the high level and quality of the presentations.

The EFMC should be very grateful to Alessio Ciulli (UK, Chair of the EFMC Session), Huib Ovaa (NL), Takashi Owa (USA), Shaomeng Wang (USA) and Mikihiko Naito (Japan) for their efforts, making this first EFMC session at the CPA- ISMC a real success.

The next step of our collaboration with the Chinese Pharmaceutical Association will be the CPA organised session at the EFMC flagship meeting, the EFMC-ISMC 2018, held in Ljubljana, Slovenia on September 2-6, 2018.


The Division of Medicinal Chemistry & Chemical Biology of the SCS is pleased to announce the next edition of the DMCCB Basel Symposium, a half-day event with five invited speakers talking about «Novel Chemical Space and Tools for Chemical Biology, Medicinal and Agrochemistry».


The meeting takes place at University of Basel and the speakers are:

Alleyn Plowright, Sanofi: Joining forces: applications of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry to discover novel biological tools and utilise new therapeutic modalities

Miles Congreve, Heptares Therapeutics Ltd.: Structure-Based Discovery of Small Molecule and Peptide Agents for GPCR Targets

Gisbert Schneider, ETH Zurich: Artificially-intelligent drug design

Jozef Vanden Broeck, University of Leuwen: Advances in understanding the mechanisms of RNA interference in insects

David Spring, University of Cambridge: Enriching Chemical Space to Drug Undruggable Targets


The 2017 EuCheMS Year Book is now available on-line, please see and check our social networks.

The latest edition of MedChemComm, the official journal of the EFMC, is available at:




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September 6-7, 2018
Ljubljana, Slovenia
5th EFMC Young Medicinal Chemist Symposium (EFMC-YMCS 2018)


June 22, 2018
Madrid, Spain
V SEQT Young Researchers Symposium

June 27, 2018
Dublin, Ireland
2nd Medicinal Chemistry Ireland Conference

November 12-13, 2018
London, United Kingdom
2nd SCI/RSC Symposium on Antimicrobial Drug Discovery



September 19-21, 2018
Rimini, Italy
Summer School in Pharmaceutical Analysis (SSPA)

October 7-12, 2018
Leysin, Switzerland
13th Swiss Course on Medicinal Chemistry


Medicinal / Synthetic Organic Chemists, Concept Life Sciences: Drug Discovery, Sandwich, Kent, United Kingdom

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MsC student or PhD internship, KU Leuven: Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Leuven, Belgium

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