Marvellous Chemical Biology Tools and Other Matters


Welcome to Chemical Biology and Drug Design, as the new Editor in Chief, I would first like to give a special thanks to Tomi Sawyer for all his dedication and sheer hard work on the journal during the last 5 years. It is only since taking on the role that I can see, with some apprehension, the commitment involved (I still have a day job after all). I was of course aware of the stapled peptide story and what a beautiful and logical development it is, of much fundamental work on helix stabilization. Most of us would be satisfied with one such achievement in a career, so it is to Tom’s great credit that he was able to bring CBDD forward as well.

My own experience is very varied so here is some background – started out at the (Burroughs) Wellcome company working on river blindness, then into antivirals, just at the time when the AIDS epidemic broke. Of course, Wellcome was one of the premier antiviral companies, and the whole company went into overdrive to work on the problem. This resulted in AZT (zidovudine) the first of the AIDS drugs. Welcome at the time was an amazing place with scientists such as George Hitchins, Gertrude Ellion, James Black and John Vane all on the payroll. A real galaxy of drug-discovery stars. The influence of the BW part of the company based in North Carolina was very strong and I was lucky to meet Trudy Ellion and – of course being young, and knowing nothing – had to look up all her research to find out who she was, then into several other projects notably migraine and worked on Zolmitriptan (311). Merger-mania struck and I landed at UCL and worked with a raft of spin-outs and start-ups. Now my laboratory concentrates mainly on approaches to treat multiple sclerosis, with an interest in VEGF/neuropilin and of course small molecule carriers of biomolecules.

What of the future? How is CBDD going to go forward? To see my thinking, I can list some likes and dislikes.

Likes: Chemical biology tools, new computational methods as applied to drug design, the design of antibodies and ADCs. New molecules with defined biological activity.

Dislikes: Empty QSAR studies, thinking Lipinski is about oral bioavailability (it’s much more important than that), attrition rates, trivializing chemistry descriptions.

On the first like, a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to see Roger Tsien’s nobel lecture, it was a tour de force with some of the most brilliant ideas being, in my view the simplest. Part of what defines us as humans is our extraordinary ability to design and make tools. In the biomedical world, these enable us to answer questions that would otherwise be impossible. This process of inventing new tools does not stop and I would like CBDD to contribute to that process. I am really looking forward to my tenure as EiC. Croeso (as we say in Wales).