Coordinator: Maria João Romão


The driving force of Drug Discovery programs is to bring innovative therapeutics to diseases without suitable medicinal drugs available. The thematic line 'Diagnostics, Drug Discovery & Development' (DDDD) is dedicated to finding new drugs that overcome present day problems, starting with diagnosing the condition; characterizing the target and developing new new biologically active molecules. It is a common-ground within UCIBIO, conglomerating all 8 RG: Disease Pathways & Biomarkers (DPB); Structural Molecular Biology (SMB); Theoretical and Computational Biosciences (TCB); Bioengineering (BENG); NanoImmunoTech (NIT); Molecular Microbiology & Genomics (MMG); Toxicology (TOXI); and Medicines and Healthcare Products (MEDTECH).  Their members have different but complementary backgrounds and work towards the same goals, nurturing an integrative and multidisciplinary approach.

Researchers from DPB contribute to this Thematic Line by discovering new therapeutic targets/drugs and identifying biomarkers. The SMB group is responsible for the structural elucidation of drug targets and structure-activity relationships, feeding the computational studies of TCB, for the docking dynamics of target-drug complexes. TOXI evaluates the toxicodynamics and toxicokinetics of the new leads contributing to the development of safe drugs. BENG delivers peptidomimetics and the use of marine organisms as a source of bioactive compounds, while NIT develops innovative conjugates adopting nano- and micro-technologies for diagnostics and therapy. At the cellular level, MMG investigates microbial pathogens and resistance mechanisms and finally, MEDTECH optimizes drug formulation for increased delivery and efficacy, closing the drug development pipeline.

The DDDD thematic line illustrates the immense existing power in academia and at UCIBIO we combine a large spectrum of expertise and interests to disentangle difficult drug-design challenges and improve every-day life. Our experience significantly contributed to: i) determination of the 3D structures of enzymes (e.g. aldehyde oxidase (AOX1)); ii) in silico and in vitro characterization of protein-ligand interactions (e.g. AOX1, RNA polymerase II); iii) toxicological profiles of drugs and xenobiotics (e.g. drugs of abuse); iv) new conjugates and formulations (e.g. target diagnosis and drug delivery, lipid-based nanoparticle formulations).
A key goal of this TL is to strengthen ongoing collaborations with the pharma industry (e.g Merck and Bial) to optimize the discovery of novel drugs and to find new anti-cancer and antimicrobial drugs, although stand-alone academic projects will also be considered worth pursuing.