The End. Well done all!
Favourite Thing: Zoom around in 3D virtual space looking at drug molecules and their targets (proteins) and thinking about how I can design better drugs.
Twyford Church of England High School (2002-2009) and University of Leeds (2009-2013)
Integrated Masters in Chemistry (MChem) with a year in industry
AstraZeneca (A Large Pharmaceutical Company)
PhD Student in Chemoinformatics (funded by the Wellcome Trust)
The Institute of Cancer Research
Me and my work
I write computer programs which help discover new medicines for cancer
Designing new drugs is a jigsaw puzzle.
First, a biologist identifies a protein target in the human body that is associated with a particular disease.
Second, a chemist needs to find a small molecule with a suitable shape to bind to a cavity in this protein target.
This small molecule is the drug, and it will hopefully help cure the disease.
My job as a Chemoinformatician is to ensure that the chemist has a wide range of molecular ‘shapes’ available to them in order to give them a good chance of finding a good fit! By identifying new molecular shapes, I hope to help cure some of the trickier diseases (such as cancer).
My Typical Day
I sit at my uber-powerful computer surrounded by four screens. This is my laboratory.
I wake up and brush my teeth… wait… fast-forward…
I write Python programs which align molecules and describe their shapes
I write more Python programs which extract the shapes of protein cavities
I write even more Python programs which compare both of the above
Python Python Python Python.
(Python is a programming language)
What I'd do with the money
Get people to see the art in science
I would love to get more people to see how creative science is.
I think my science is beautiful and is a very creative process. The only difference is that you have to learn a few things to start playing with it!
I would use the money to run design workshops in schools and have an image competition. Who can make the best image of a drug binding its protein target?
It would also be an opportunity to introduce people to how drugs work and how we design them.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Creative. Curious and Cancer-killing
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Bungee jumping in Costa Rica! or maybe scuba diving in Honduras. I recommend both…
What did you want to be after you left school?
An Artist. Yes. Seriously.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
What was your favourite subject at school?
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Gone on University Challenge on BBC2!
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
My high school Chemistry teacher
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
An Interior designer (Although I feel obligated to say ASTRONAUT)
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I’d like a twix. and another twix. and the ability to download knowledge like they do in the matrix.
Tell us a joke.
Two muffins in the oven, one says to the other ‘Are your chips melting?’ The other says, ‘WOAHH, a talking muffin!’
Proteins are too small to see with a microscope, but by bouncing X-rays off protein crystals and looking at the diffraction pattern (the way the X-rays scatter) we can generate models of their structure.
Here is an X-ray crystal structure of a protein (pink) bound to the anti-cancer drug imatinib (blue).
This is a protein called a kinase that transfers a chemical group (called a phosphate) in order to signal a response from other proteins in the body. One way to stop cancer from growing is by stopping it communicating with other cells, so kinases are common targets in modern cancer therapy.
This image is the same protein, with a molecular surface so that you can see the cavity where the drug sits.
This image is zoomed in on the drug binding site. The drug is a small molecule made of carbon (green), nitrogen (blue) and oxygen (red). The names on the outside show the key parts of the protein the drug interacts with (proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids)
Again, looks pretty cool.
Here is my computer station – or mission control if you prefer. It’s two computers with four screens.
I work at The Institute of Cancer Research, one of the world’s leading cancer organisations.