Among the many fantastic learning opportunities at ELRIG’s upcoming Drug Discovery 2017 meeting, one particular highlight will be hearing from the two plenary keynote speakers: Dr Mene Pangalos and Dr Nessa Carey (register for your free place now).

On Day One (3rd October) Dr Pangalos, Executive Vice-President of AstraZeneca’s Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit, will provide insights into how to turn science into better medicines by sharing his long-standing passion for translational research.

On Day Two (4th October) Dr Nessa Carey, International Director at PraxisUnico, Visiting Professor at Imperial College, and life science author, will harness her diverse academic and industry experience to share her perspectives on the challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry today, and what the future might look like.

In the lead up to these must-attend talks, Dr Pangalos and Dr Carey provide their personal views on what’s driving exciting progress in drug discovery, and discuss why they think collaboration and innovation are central to the future discovery of effective new medicines.


Mene Pangalos and Nessa Carey

Dr. Mene Pangalos and Dr. Nessa Carey

Dr Mene Pangalos: a scientist with a passion for making medicines

Dr Pangalos sees himself first and foremost as a scientist, but one who likes to translate science into medicines. “There’s nothing more exciting than turning great science into a medicine that makes a difference to a patient and that’s what gets me excited when I get out of bed in the morning,” he says.

With a passion for translating science into new medicines for patients, Dr Pangalos emphasises that having a fundamental understanding of the biology and genetics of disease, and using this to identify suitable targets or pathways, is the key to success. “All the chemistry and protein engineering in the world isn’t going to get you a medicine if you’re working on the wrong target, so having a deep scientific understanding of the pathways you’re trying to modulate is absolutely critical,” Dr Pangalos advises.

Dr Pangalos highlights the importance of defining the right patient population, ensuring your molecules are safe, understanding the level of target engagement you require and ultimately, understanding and defining how your medicine will be differentiated.

What is exciting about drug discovery today?

“There’s never been a better time to be a scientist in drug discovery,” remarks Dr Pangalos, citing the many innovations that are driving the “mind-boggling” progress of both technologies and our understanding of disease.

His particular examples of novel technologies that are changing the productivity of drug discovery and our ability to understand disease include CRISPR gene editing, the power of genomics and Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS), machine learning and artificial intelligence, and micro-physiological systems on chips.

He is also impressed by the huge advancements made in oncology in recent years, including the ability to harness the immune system to attack and kill cancer cells using cancer immunotherapies, as well as the development of DNA damage response molecules for treating certain cancers.

“There are so many exciting technologies helping us that I think our ability to innovate over the next decade is going to continue to increase even more dramatically,” says Dr Pangalos.

Why is collaboration important in drug discovery?

The pharmaceutical industry is undergoing a cultural change, by encouraging open innovation and collaboration to enhance drug discovery and Dr Pangalos says that AstraZeneca is no exception. “Our culture at AstraZeneca is one where we are as open and as transparent as possible to make collaborating with us not just fun but also scientifically engaging,” he says. “We have great scientists within our own walls, but we also need to tap into the great science outside of those walls, to help us to accelerate the translation of science into medicine.”

He also points out that going to meetings like Drug Discovery 2017 is a crucial opportunity to build future collaborations. “More than a thousand scientists coming together from biotech, pharma and academia provides a fantastic opportunity to talk to a diverse group of scientists from all sorts of different backgrounds, as well as being a chance to see some really cool new technology demonstrations,” says Dr Pangalos.

He’s also thrilled that Drug Discovery 2017 is being hosted in Liverpool, UK: “It’s where The Beatles came from, and is the home of Liverpool Football Club, which is the team I support!”

Dr Nessa Carey: science advocate and expert solver of practical problems

Dr Nessa Carey views her professional strength to be her ability to design good experiments to answer very specific scientific questions. Looking back on her thirteen years working in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, she highlights a period when she was focusing on biotechnology in epigenetics and collaborating with many of the world’s best researchers.

“It was while the field was relatively young, especially in drug discovery terms,” she recalls. “I discovered I was really good at seeing links and spotting the targets with the greatest potential, both therapeutically and commercially, and then moving them forward by commissioning translational studies.”

After publishing her first book, The Epigenetics Revolution, Dr Carey began to get more involved in science advocacy, which she believes is something all researchers should take part in throughout their careers. “As someone who believes that science is one of humanity’s greatest cultural achievements, it’s great to be able to spread the word,” she says.

What changes need to happen in drug discovery?

Dr Carey is excited about the remarkable progress occurring in drug discovery today. She is fascinated by the ever-growing applications of epigenetics, the drive towards personalised therapies, and the use of new technologies, such as CRISPR gene editing.

Top of the list of her priorities is delivering the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people, and so, she views the advancement of new antibiotics and better prevention programs for lifestyle conditions as crucial goals in drug discovery.

Noting an abundance of great ideas and fantastic research around the world, Dr Carey also views collaboration at the translational level as key to continuing progress in drug discovery, where she’d like to see even more collaboration between pharmaceutical and biotech companies to support future drug pipelines.

“It’s encouraging to see larger pharma companies collaborating with each other more on late stage programmes, as this is a much more cost-effective approach,” Dr Carey adds.

Why Dr Carey encourages you to go to Drug Discovery 2017

As a science advocate, Dr Carey sees conferences like Drug Discovery 2017 to be one of the few places you can exchange views and discoveries, and in turn, encourage further breakthroughs and paradigm changes – ultimately paving the way for the discovery of new medicines to improve patients’ lives.

“I was at the conference where Rudolph Jaenisch announced that he had repeated Shinya Yamanaka’s research on induced pluripotent stem cells, and that it did indeed work,” she recalls. “The response was like one of those 1930s movies where all the reporters dash to phone their editors after the “not guilty” verdict is announced in court!”

At Drug Discovery 2017, Dr Carey will put her science advocacy hat on once again and share her expert views. Her plenary keynote presentation will focus on reconciling society’s views about the pharmaceutical industry, in which she will share her opinions on where the problems really lie for the industry and how these can be resolved to benefit the future of drug discovery.

If you’re interested in hearing the plenary keynote talks of Dr Mene Pangalos and Dr Nessa Carey, register free for Drug Discovery 2017 today!

Register free for Drug Discovery 2017