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Shared Resource Feature: Lead Development and Optimization

September 23, 2020

The cancer center’s Lead Development and Optimization shared resource provides access to drug discovery and development expertise, facilities and instrumentation. Led by Amanda Brinker, PhD, the team provides expertise in target validation, a crucial step in the drug discovery process that determines a drug’s therapeutic effects on a target, and the development and optimization of hit-and-lead compounds.

According to Dr. Brinker, drug discovery and development has largely taken place in private industry due to the specialized expertise and equipment needed to successfully validate drug targets, identify small molecules to hit those targets and then optimize them to work within the human body. 

“Our shared resource is unique among academic institutions in that we have not only invested in specialty equipment, but we have brought in directors with both industry and academic training who have track records of successful drug discovery and development,” Dr. Brinker said. “This allows researchers who have not yet discovered or developed a small-molecule probe or therapeutic to access the expertise and guidance they might need for their project.”

The Shared Resource houses three component labs, High Throughput Screening, Medicinal Chemistry and the Biopharmaceutical Innovation & Optimization Center, which allows for seamless collaboration among disciplines as well as comprehensive project management. This oversight and expertise guides researchers across the translational “valley of death” between basic and clinical science.

Because the shared resource is in-house, the researcher is engaged throughout the process, providing a complete, custom output meeting the researchers’ needs. With the project management function of the shared resource, the team ensures a timeline with concrete milestones are met.

Andrew Godwin, PhD, cancer center deputy director, recently partnered with the shared resource team on a project exploring a novel ovarian cancer target.

“The purpose of shared resources is to provide a breadth of expertise, technical support and infrastructure that would be impossible and impractical to reproduce and maintain across an individual’s research laboratory,” Dr. Godwin said.

Members of the Lead Development and Optimization shared resource team work closely with the Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation (IAMI) to ensure that once drug candidate optimization is complete, projects are ready to partner with a network of motivated clinical and product development colleagues.

Contact Amanda Brinker to learn more.

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