Webinar Bios: Industrial and Academic Neglected Disease Drug Discovery Collaborations

Julio Martin, Ph.D.
Head of Kinetoplastid Biology, Director & GSK Fellow
GSK R&D, Tres Cantos, Spain

I am currently working at the Kinetoplastid Discovery Performance Unit of GSK R&D at Tres Cantos (Spain). Our remit is to discover and develop new chemical entities for the treatment of human diseases caused by kinetoplastid parasites such as Leishmania and Trypanosoma. Our strategy is based on open innovation and collaborative research. Formerly, I have been responsible of ultra-HTS campaigns from screen development to dose-response and preliminary SAR. Likewise, I have been engaged in the development and implementation of new statistical tools and assay technologies for the improvement of HTS efficiency. I have explored label-free technologies for the screening of small molecules in protein and cellular assays in a joint collaboration with external companies.

I hold a PhD degree in Biochemistry from University of Madrid, where I acquired background and expertise on protein chemistry and enzymology. Prior to my current position, I worked at the R&D Department of Glaxo, where I managed programmes for discovery of new antimicrobial leads.

Michael Pollastri, Ph.D.
Associate Professor & Chair of Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts

Prof. Pollastri’s research focus is discovery of new therapeutics for neglected tropical diseases, using an approach which repurposes approved or investigational drugs as starting points for optimizing new antiparasitic agents. In one approach, called “Target Repurposing,” he identifies parasitic targets of importance that have been previously biochemically validated, with a further focus on those targets with human homologs that have been pursued in human drug discovery. Prof. Pollastri’s lab then prepares known ligands previously reported against the human homolog for assessment against the parasite target, and then pursues an optimization program from that starting point. Using this approach, his laboratory has pursued the repurposing of inhibitors human PDE4 as starting points for African sleeping sickness drugs. In a second approach, “Lead Repurposing,” the Pollastri laboratory identifies cellular processes in parasites that share similar processes in human cells, and then identifies inhibitors of those processes in humans that show activity against parasitic cells. This approach is contrasted with Target Repurposing, in that instead of focusing on target protein sequence similarity, Lead Repurposing focuses on inhibitor sensitivity similarity. Using Lead Repurposing, the team has repurposed tyrosine kinase inhibitors, phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitors, Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors, and cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors for sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, and filarial worms.

To accomplish its ambitious drug discovery goals, the Pollastri laboratory collaborates closely with the pharmaceutical industry as well as with worldwide leaders in parasite biology.

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