Author Archives: zoecournia

EU and Me

Fig1Last week I had the honour to be interviewed by the European Commission by Eleni-Revekka Staiou and Jef Ponsaers for EU and Me, a digital story campaign showing that living in the European Union provides endless opportunities to do what you love – wherever that may lead. EU can help unlock your potential and ignite your inspiration giving you the tools to pursue your passion!

How did EU helped my research as a Chemist?

When i came back to Greece from the US, I received the Marie Curie Fellowship, that helped me setup my lab, hire my first lab staff, produce independent publications, travel to conferences to build up my own research network. I could invite my colleagues from the US, and the fellowship also paid for overheads in my home institute, the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens.

IMG_20180824_161258_893The National Strategic Reference Program co-funded by the EU (ESPA in Greek) awarded more funds to my lab to continue our research (following open call contests).

PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe), provided computational time to run our demanding molecular simulations for discovering new drugs (over 45M core hours).

Through European Union’s main funding scheme, Horizon 2020, I am implicated in projects like VI-SEEM, which has built an e-infrastructure platform for Southeastern Europe & Eastern Mediterranean, and also the Human Brain Project through which we work to discover new treatments for brain diseases!

Through awards I won, such as PRACE Ada Lovelace 2016, I could reach out to citizens (and especially girls), get them acquainted with science & tell them how research leads to products that we use in our everyday life.

Finally EU through its many initiatives helped to host & collaborate with many students  from across Europe!

To name a few: HPC-Europa3, PRACE Summer of HPC, ESPA, ERASMUS+.IMG_20180824_161258_899

The NEXT STEP? The European Bank for Reconstruction & Development has now signed an agreement to build a new Centre for Personalized Medicine in my home institute, the Biomedical Research Foundation.

All that has led & continues to lead to new candidate drugs  that we hope in the future will improve the quality of life for thousands of citizens in the world!

The opportunities are out there for you too – Go grab them!

PS. if you are wondering why I am extending my hand like this in the first picture – this was supposed to be a selfie video 🙂

 

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Summer of High Performance Computing

Summer of High Performance computing (HPC) is a PRACE programme that offers summer placements at HPC centres across Europe. This year 21 top applicants from across Europe were selected to participate and I was lucky to host two excellent students, Samanta and Juan. They spent two months working on projects in my lab related to HPC.

Samanta worked on understanding the dynamics of the protein human Thymidine Kinase 1 (hTK1), which is crucial for DNA biosynthesis, using Molecular Dynamics simulations. She delivered the project and created an excellent video, I hope you enjoy it!

 

Juan worked on a computer-aided drug design project. One of the initial steps in drug discovery projects is the virtual screening of small molecules against a set of targets to predict their affinity. Juan created a Python tool has been added to our existing ChemBioServer website that filters compounds so as to be specific for a given set of proteins. He successfully completed the projected and brought new functionality to our server. Enjoy his explanatory video.

What is graphene? Learn in 2.5 minutes!

Free Online 2015 Drug Design and Delivery Symposium by ACS

The American Chemical Society oranizes a free four-module symposiumon Drug Design and Delivery.

The four modules contain multiple talks on the drug discovery process and are delivered by expert chemists working in top pharmaceutical companies in the world. Attendants will learn about Strategies to Improve Solubility of Drug Candidates, PAINS filters, using PET for Labeling in Drug Discovery & Development, Pharmacokinetic Considerations in Drug Design and Development, and more.

Module 1: Improving Drug Design Efficiency and Efficacy

Module 2: Activity/Potency Screening for Drug Lead and Candidate Optimization

Module 3: Enabling Drug Delivery

Module 4: Pharmacokinetics

Register HERE for free.

Enjoy!

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2014

The Nobel Prizein Physiology or Medicine 2014 is awarded for discovering how the brain navigates our way – our inner “GPS” system in the brain. The prize goes to J. O’Keefe (UCL, UK) and E. Moser and M.B. Moser (University of Trondheim, Norway).

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Free Virtual Symposium: Advances in Drug Discovery and Development

On September 24, 2014, a world-class group of scientists from biotech, pharma and academia will present the latest research findings and new technologies that are driving the design, discovery and development of new drugs – from small molecules and monoclonals to RNA therapeutics and gene-editing technologies.

testtubes3The event is free and organized by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and ACS’s magazine C&EN news.

To register for free please follow this link.  Even if you can’t make the live lectures or the time zone is not convenient for you, all presentations will be archived and available on demand for three months.

You will even have the chance to “Walk the floor” in a virtual exhibition hall, participate in panel discussions and Q&A sessions and do live-chat with peers and vendors

Some of the talks that I find interesting:

Accurate Prediction of Ligand Binding Free Energies – MARK MURCKO, PhD (Disruptive Biomedical LLC)

Design of Protein Structures, Functions and Assemblies – DAVID BAKER, PhD (HHMI/Univ of Washington)

Site-directed ligand discovery for cryptic sites – MICHELLE ARKIN PhD (UCSF)

The Promises and Challenges of Next-Generation Therapeutics – GREG VERDINE, PhD (Warp Drive Bio)

Structure based Drug Design: G-protein coupled receptors using StaR tech – FIONA MARSHALL (Heptares)

Drug Repositioning in the Era of Personalized Medicine – CRAIG WEBB, PhD (NuMedii)

Panel Discussion:The Business of Biotech – LUKE TIMMERMAN, MATT HERPER, MANDY JACKSON

Exploiting cell death for drug discovery – BRENT STOCKWELL, PhD (HHMI/Columbia University)

The VCNDD: CNS Drug Discovery in Academia – CRAIG W. LINDSLEY, PhD (Vanderbilt Center – VCNDD)

Targeting Lysine Acetylation in Cancer – JAY BRADNER, MD (Dana Farber Cancer Institute)

How are drugs designed?

How are drugs designed? Come on Friday 2nd May at 18:00 at the Athens Science Festival, Technopolis Gkazi to listen to my talk! See the detailed program of the festival here.

CADDThis talk will address how drugs are designed to combat a disease – from the discovery of the cause of the disease (e.g. a mutant protein), specialized techniques for the design of small chemical molecules (that are drugs), to clinical trials. We will also discuss advances and progresses in individualized treatment (also known as personalized medicine), i.e. how DNA testing could help each patient receive medication specifically tailored for them.

Πώς σχεδιάζονται τα φάρμακα; Ελάτε την Παρασκευή 2 Μαϊου στις 18:00 στο Athens Science Festival, Τεχνοπολις Γκάζι, να ακούσετε την ομιλία μου.

Η ομιλία έχει θέμα το πώς επιτελείται ο σχεδιασμός φαρμάκων για μία ασθένεια – από την ανακάλυψη του αιτίου που προκαλεί την ασθένεια (π.χ. μια μεταλλαγμένη πρωτεΐνη), εξειδικευμένες τεχνικές για το σχεδιασμό μικρών χημικών μορίων που αποτελούν τα φάρμακα, μεχρι και τις κλινικές δοκιμές. Επίσης θα συζητήσουμε τις προοπτικές και εξελίξεις στην εξατομικευμένη θεραπεία, το πώς δηλαδή με εξέταση DNA μπορεί ο κάθε ασθενής να λαμβάνει ένα φάρμακο που είναι ειδικά κατάλληλο για εκείνον.

Περισσότερες πληροφορίες και μία μικρή περίληψη για το θέμα θα βρείτε σε πρόσφατο άρθρο στην ιστοσελίδα της διοργάνωσης.

ASF ASF

A Day in the Life of a Computational Chemist

As you know if you have been following this blog, I have always been fascinated by how the world around us works. Why is the sky blue? Why are bubbles in a soft drink spherical? How do we fall in love? What are we really made of?

This inherent curiosity led me to become a scientist. I studied Chemistry but soon enough I realized that being a chemist makes a huge mess or at least I made one in the lab! Fortunately, I then realized that computers exist and they make things much cleaner. I discovered that today it is possible to build chemicals, study reactions, or even make drugs within a desktop computer by performing virtual experiments in a similar way as the typical chemists. This type of chemistry is called “computational chemistry”. So I became a computational chemist. Indeed, I literally live in a virtual reality world, where everything from chemical reactions to drugs, food, materials, cosmetics, electronics, and prImageoteins is being modeled and simulated. And you won’t believe it, but, yes, I do have a job!

I am a group leader at the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens.  I specialize in “computer-aided drug design”, so the computer is my Virgil in the world of drugs (to paraphrase the original Nobel Committee tagline). The main activity of my lab is the design of anti-cancer candidate drugs. Recent advances in computer-aided drug design allow us to develop drugs specifically designed for a given protein, shortening the development cycle of new drugs.

Do you want to learn more about what it means to be a computational chemist and how I spend my day? For more details and a video on the life of a computational chemist, please read my full blog post at the Wiley Exchanges site.

Enjoy!

PS. My Doktorvater, Jeremy Smith, was also kind enough to link to this post in his own blog!

Pheromones are in the Air: Friends, Lovers or Foes

Love at first sight? Desire in a bottle? There have been a lot of claims about what pheromones can do, but what is the science? Dr. George Preti and Dr. Charles J. Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Center discuss the chemistry of pheromones and how mood and emotion can be communicated through chemical signals.

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http://acswebinars.org/pheromones

Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Horizon 2020

“SMEs- The new tools/opportunities for access to finance introduced by Horizon 2020” by Jean-David Malo, Head of Unit SMEs, Financial Instruments and State Aid, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, EC.

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“Access to risk finance”

Part of the horizon 2020 budget, that is 3,69% (2.7 billion euros) will be provided though grant funding but in the form of risk sharing for loans and guarantees and by providing risk finance (equity).

Goal: stimulate more investment in research and innovation To attract additional finance and multiply horizon 2020 budget resources for SMEs

Why?

Because of enduring difficulties in SMEs in accessing startup/Grant finance and because of the need to build an integrated European VC market

They cover a broad range of interventions such as :

  • Guarantees to mutual guarantee societies and banks lending to companies incl SMEs
  • Equity participation for early and growth stage investments

This funding will be typically delivered via financial intermediaries (banks funds etc) but also directly Operated by the EIB group but may also be operated by other financial institutions

Debt finance can be achieved through the following schemes:

  1. Loans service for R&I (called “RSFFII”) Loans and guarantees for investments in research and innovation; targeted at midcaps and larger companies, research institutes and Stand alone projects Loan amounts over 7,5 million
  2. Sme and small midcaps R&I loans service Loan guarantee facility between 25,000 to 7.5 million
  3. SME initiative : Joint guarantee instrument an securitization for loans to innovative SMEs and small midcaps

Equity finance (next year):

-Early stage finance for innovative enterprises

-Pilot facility for tech transfer , creation of spin offs

These schemes will be facilitated by the Horizon 2020 along with the “COSME” program.

More info on the initiatives can be also found here.

For the full presentation of Horizon 2020’s Financial Instruments, check this link.

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