Supporting Industrial clients in their use of Fragment Screening
In this series of articles, we would like to introduce to you members of the Industrial Liaison team. They provide an important role within Diamond, working with our industrial clients to make sure they quickly achieve actionable results to meet their organisational needs.
In this article, we shine a spotlight on Ailsa Powell, an industrial liaison scientist, responsible for helping companies with XChem fragment screening experiments at Diamond.
Tell us how you came to work at Diamond?
I started at Diamond in Spring 2018. Before that I worked in a small biotech spinout from University of Oxford developing technology to aid crystallisation (self-assembling, artificial protein crystals).
Prior to that, I worked as a post-doc at the University of Oxford investigating anti-malarial drug targets. I have also worked on antimicrobial resistance, doing post-doctoral research on the structural basis of resistance at the Medical University of South Carolina.
My PhD studies at the University of Bristol were investigating the role of a metabolic protein in early Alzheimer’s Disease using both structural biology and biophysical techniques.
Which industries do you work with?/
Generally, I work with pharmaceutical companies, Contract Research Organisations (CROs) and biotech.
What are the key challenges that these industries face?
There will be many, but in the field I work in, finding novel lead compounds for drug discovery projects.
How does Diamond support the research of these companies?
The fragment screening platform can allow companies in one step to have structures of molecules bound to their target of interest. We will have efficiently screened 100’s of chemical fragments against crystals and collected diffraction data in a short time frame. An experiment that may take months in the lab, can be done in weeks on the XChem platform.
How does the Industry team add value?
We are focused on getting our client’s experiments to work and to get them high-quality, robust data. We have a vast amount of experience and are able to consult on how to get the best results and whether the project is viable. When working with us, our clients know the project is in very capable hands and will be well managed by highly approachable staff.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Finding time for a quiet cup of tea! More seriously, working on numerous projects at the same and managing the industrial side of the XChem lab time requires perfect time management skills. Which isn’t challenging as such but requires focus all the time.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I really enjoy interacting with clients, discussing projects and results.
Are there any stand-out projects?
It’s fantastic to play a part in campaigns that have generated new results and directions for companies. But it’s also been amazing to be part of a team that quickly and successfully screened 1000’s of compounds on MPro from Covid-19
What would you say to other companies thinking of using Diamond's Industry services?
Fragment screening by directly soaking compounds into crystals does yield results. It is a different technique to other biophysical screening methods and you may not see the same results. But we have companies bringing follow up compounds back to Diamond that have been developed from fragment screens on the XChem platform; we also have a number of companies return for additional campaigns on new targets.
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