ELF Chemistry event brings together scientists in Belgium


The European Lead Factory (ELF) acknowledges the need for open exchange between researchers with different professional backgrounds and puts a focus on the career development of young scientists. Therefore, the European Lead Factory annually invites young talented EU Lead Factory chemists from participating small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and academic institutions to a so-called Learnings and Achievements meeting, where they can present their scientific work, interact with colleagues and liaise with representatives from participating established pharmaceutical companies and SME partners.

This year’s Annual Chemistry Learnings and Achievements Meeting took place on 6-7 November. Over 75 participants from Europe, including nineteen external early career researchers, were invited to join the two-day conference at the Janssen Pharmaceutica Campus in Beerse, Belgium.

During the conference, the researchers enjoyed presentations and posters highlighting different areas, ranging from synthetic chemical processes to computational and medicinal chemistry. The talks were complemented by lectures given by Dr Philip Jones (University of Dundee), Dr Mario van der Stelt (Leiden University) and Dr Andrew McElroy (The Research Network). Furthermore, following previous events, an interactive workshop on the Hit-to-Lead process was organized and led by Dr Lieven Meerpoel and several of his colleagues from Janssen.

One of the participants, Romain Costil (University of Bristol) explained, “The presentations from academics, SMEs and multinational companies gave me a very clear picture of the whole drug discovery process. The poster session provided an excellent forum to exchange ideas and to get input from many of the other participants, giving me a new perspective on my work.”

Following the successful event, a jury awarded three prizes for the best presentations and poster, kindly sponsored by ELF. The best presentation award went to Dr Daniel Blanco (Radboud University Nijmegen) for his talk “European Lead Factory: Scaffold design and synthesis”. The judges explained that he described his work in a very lively manner, giving a detailed insight into the synthetic chemistry in his projects, as well as providing a good understanding of the mechanisms taking place. Dr Mark Borst (Syncom BV) received the best poster award for his contribution “A library of bicyclic THF- and THP-derivatives using photo-flow chemistry”. The judges thought that he presented a well-organized poster, showing the very elegant use of flow reactions in photochemistry. Finally, the prize for best flash presentation went to Maciej Rogacki (University of Antwerp) for his short talk on “Discovery, hit-to-lead optimization and biological profiling of a novel class of antimycobacterial DprE1 inhibitors”. He impressed the judges by giving a precise summary that conveyed the main message of his work in the short time allowed.

Award winners and the jury

Award-winner Dr Daniel Blanco, who also participated in a previous event, looks back on an inspiring event. "The conference was, firstly, an extraordinary opportunity for me to present the work developed in our group during the last year of the project. Secondly, I enjoyed seeing the remarkable chemistry that other research groups had developed as well: I was fascinated by the amount of different ideas that have arisen from the same project! Finally, it was a great place to make important contacts with different pharmaceutical companies.”

The event continues to provide an excellent platform to share knowledge and reciprocal education, both between the consortium partners as well as within the larger scientific community. Many participants mentioned they also brought home new ideas. The conference delivered an excellent chance for participants to gain further insight into the whole drug discovery process as well as a great overview of the progress and work that has been carried out during the ELF project.