Embracing the new normal: The European Lead Factory kicks off monthly webinar series

25 November 2020

On Thursday 12 November, the European Lead Factory (ELF) hosted the first in a series of webinars. With these webinars, the ELF team aims to engage and maintain contact with the broader scientific community, now that live conferences and in-person meetings are not possible. The team also hopes to lower the barrier for researchers who may be interested in collaborating with ELF to further their drug discovery ambitions.

This first webinar, which had more than 80 attendees, introduced participants to the ELF concept and how it contributes to European drug discovery and innovation. Jon de Vlieger, Coordinator of the ELF programme, and Volkhart Li, ELF Project Lead, gave an overview of the ELF portfolio and the progress made to date. Inspiring examples of ELF success stories in the fields of oncology, antimicrobial resistance, and neglected tropical diseases were also shared.

“Within the ELF consortium, we have brought together a high-quality compound collection, state-of-the-art techniques for High-Throughput and High-Content Screening, and international partners with expert knowledge on both target-based and target-agnostic (phenotypic) screening,” said Jon. “We focus on early drug discovery and it is our aim to set researchers up for success in discovering new medicines.”

In the second part of the webinar, Chimed Jansen of ELF SME partner MercachemSyncom (now called Symeres) took a deep-dive into the novelty, diversity, and drug-likeness of a subset of the ELF compound library known as the Public Compound Collection (PCC). The PCC makes up one third of the ELF compound library, which has more than 500,000 compounds in total. Chimed’s presentation focused on the analysis of the PCC conducted in collaboration with Hugues Lemoine of Edelris (another SME partner), with details of how the PCC was developed. “Over the space of five years, the PCC has progressed from 55,000 to 200,000 chemical structures,” said Chimed. “Diversity has always been one of the key goals of the library, especially with regards to novelty of the already explored chemical space. The library provides great opportunities for assay developers and unlocks new potential for finding novel leads.”

To close off the webinar, Jon talked the audience through the potential for collaboration with ELF and explained the technical and legal criteria for screening proposals – inviting everyone to reach out to the ELF Programme Office with questions or to plan a 1:1 conversation to discuss these elements in more detail.

“Researchers from all over Europe can submit innovative screening proposals to ELF,” said Jon. “We are looking for drug discovery programmes to move towards the clinic and we aim to work with the programme owners (those who submit screening proposals) as closely as possible.

“Once a proposal has been accepted, the applicant will be part of the programme team designing the full screening plan. This means that we go through the process together, selecting those criteria that need to be met. We screen the library at our facilities with no up-front costs for the programme owner, perform initial triaging of the hits, and provide the results of a qualified hit list (a maximum of 50 of the best compounds) to the programme owner. The programme owner then has exclusive rights to explore these results for three years and has full control of further programme progression.” More information about the collaboration concept and how it works can be found here.

Commenting on the webinar and the importance of staying connected to the wider scientific community during these times, Volkhart said: “I was delighted to not only see old friends of the European Lead Factory in this webinar, but also many new faces and names from across Europe and beyond, proving that webinars like this indeed help to mitigate the lack of coming together in person in these special times. In addition to the monthly webinars, the ELF programme office is running a series of one-hour online Q&A sessions every Thursday from 16:00-17:00 (CET) to help interested but hesitant potential future programme owners become more familiar with this unprecedented and fascinating public-private partnership.”

The next ELF webinar will take place on Thursday 10 December from 11:00-12:00 (CET) and will highlight a programme owner that has been successful with screening – demonstrating the potential of ELF to accelerate drug discovery in Europe. Registration for this and future ELF webinars is free via this link.

If you are interested in submitting a screening proposal, the next deadline to apply is Friday 22 January. More information on the proposal submission process can be found here and you can register here for the weekly online Q&A hour.