Ion Channel Drug Discovery in the 21st Century
23 November 2011
Ion Channel Drug Discovery in the 21st Century
Workshop overview:

The diversity and tissue distribution of mammalian ion channels means they are particularly attractive targets for the development of novel therapeutic drugs. Whilst previously acknowledged as being difficult targets for drug discovery research, screening technologies focused around ion channel targets have now evolved to the point where researchers are presented with a wealth of assay systems able to deliver highly information rich data even at the primary screen stage.  This workshop will review the potential for ion channels as therapeutic targets, examine the advantages presented by the evolution of assay system technology, review choices for selection of compounds for primary screening and will present real life case study data from early stage drug discovery programmes.

The workshop will cover:
  • The increasing potential for ion channels as therapeutic targets
  • An examination of the advantages presented by the evolution of assay system technology
  • A review of the choices for selection of compounds for primary screening
  • Use of case-study data from early-stage drug discovery programmes

Heads of Department, Directors, Managers, Team Leaders Researchers and Scientists from:

  • Screening 
  • Pre-clinical Research 
  • Pharmacology 
  • Lead discovery technologies 
  • Molecular and cellular biology 
  • Biological technologies 
  • Lead generation and optimization 
  • High-content analysis 
  • Target identification and validation 
  • Target discovery 
  • In vitro assays 
  • Compound profiling 
  • Assay development
About the workshop hosts: 
Andy Southan, Director, Ion Channel Biology, BioFocus

In 1991 Andy graduated with a PhD in Pharmacology from University College London after using field potential and intracellular electrophysiological recording techniques to study the effects of high helium pressure and general anaesthetics on mammalian central neurones. He then joined the UK division of Wyeth, where for four years he worked as an electrophysiologist contributing to GABAergic and potassium channel-based drug discovery research programmes.  Following this he moved to Imperial College London to study the ion channels involved in cerebellar inhibitory synaptic tranSAE Media Groupssion. This work resulted in publication of the first combined electrophysiological/fluorescence microscopy recordings from inhibitory CNS synaptic nerve terminals.  He then joined CeNeS Pharmaceuticals, a start-up pharmaceutical company in Cambridge (UK), and served as head of the electrophysiology group, whilst also being responsible for instigating and managing the company’s internal ion channel discovery research programmes.  In 2001 Andy joined Ionix Pharmaceuticals, a company based in Cambridge (UK) with a focus on pain therapeutics, where he established the electrophysiology laboratory and was also responsible for managing research into mechanosensitive ion channels implicated in pain pathways. 

Andy has been at BioFocus for six and a half years and during this time has overseen significant development of the company’s capabilities for ion channel drug discovery research.  He currently manages collaborations with a variety of clients from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors.

Matthew Gardener, Senior Scientist, Antibody Discovery and Protein Engineering, MedImmune
Matthew Gardener graduated from the University of Bath, with an honours degree in Pharmacology and went on to complete his PhD in vascular physiology, at the University of Manchester in 2001.  After a period of post doctorial research, studying the role of twin-pore potassium channels in the vasculature, he left academia and joined Xention Discovery in 2004. Whilst at Xention, he studied the effects of Kv1.5 modulators on isolated human atrial myocytes and the effects of ion channel modulators on the immune system.  He left Xention in 2006 to join BioFocus, where he was responsible for conventional patch-clamp electrophysiology. At BioFocus he also configured an number of automated electrophysiology assays and managed drug screening projects for a wide variety of ion channel targets.
He left BioFocus in 2010 to join MedImmune and is currently a Senior Scientist in the department of Antibody Discovery and Protein Engineering. 
Grant Wishart, Principal Scientist, Computational Chemistry, BioFocus
Grant Wishart completed his PhD at the University of Abertay, Dundee in 1997, before joining the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research at University College London as a medicinal/computational chemist.  Grant moved to Organon Laboratories at Newhouse, Scotland in 2001, spending 10 years in the computational medicinal chemistry section of Organon and its successors Schering-Plough and Merck working across a diversity of neuroscience projects from hit identification through to lead optimization.  Grant joined BioFocus as a Principal Scientist within the computational chemistry group in January 2011. 
Gary Clark, Group Leader, Biology, BioFocus
Gary gained his Ph.D in 1998 from Coventry University for his electrophysiological investigations into the innervation of the sino-atrial node.  Following this Gary worked as an electrophysiologist for CeNeS Pharmaceuticals, where he was involved in the characterization of lead compounds using recombinant expression systems, native tissue and dissociated neurones.  Gary became a founding member of Xention Limited in 2002, where he played a key role in their atrial fibrillation programme; compounds discovered during this programme are currently being evaluated in Phase I clinical trials.  Gary joined BioFocus in 2005 to integrate novel automated electrophysiology technologies into the company with the view to expanding its capabilities in this emerging field. 
Since joining BioFocus he has been instrumental in coordinating a multi-disciplined team to service long-term collaborations with a variety of pharmaceutical companies and charitable organizations.  His team are currently involved in progressing a range of activities spanning cell line generation, ion channel screening (where electrophysiology-based campaigns of up to 120,000 compounds have been undertaken) and support for medicinal chemistry hit-to-lead / lead optimization.
Omar Aziz, Team Leader, Biology, BioFocus
Omar gained his PhD from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2001. From 2001-2004 he moved to the USA for a postdoctoral visiting fellow in the Laboratory of Signal Transduction, National Institute of Environmental

Workshop agenda



Registration & Refreshments



Welcome & Introduction



Introduction to ion channels as targets for drug discovery






Assay platforms: an overview of the current technologies and where they most benefit the drug discovery research cascade






Selecting a screening deck






Screening case studies for ion channel targets



Summary & Conclusions



End of Workshop

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This 4 star north London hotel in zone 2 is the perfect destination for the astute business traveler as well as the leisure guest that knows how convenient north London hotels are, as a base from which to explore the city .Bond Street is just 3 stops from Swiss Cottage underground station on the Jubilee Line, so you can be shopping, exploring the sights and taking in one of London’s world-renowned West End shows in less than 15 minutes when you stay at this hotel near central London. At the same time, the hive of activity that is Camden Town, the chic shops, cafes and restaurants of Primrose Hill and ZSL’s London Zoo in Regents Park are all just a short walk from this hotel in north London.



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