Starting at the Molecular Level

Photo courtesy of the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Despite many pharmaceutical breakthroughs, we are still in need of medications that can curb addiction, and fight cancer, vascular disease and depression. There are many potential drugs just waiting to be discovered -- drugs that have the potential to improve quality of life for many. Some of these drugs may even save lives. “Without chemistry, it is not possible to translate the fundamental discoveries made by biomedical researchers into clinical trials,” said UH chemistry professor Scott Gilbertson.

Photo courtesy of the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

The very beginning of this process commences when Gilbertson synthesizes a completely new molecule or validates or improves upon a molecule that has been shown to have interesting biological activity.

He does this by altering its structure in order to improve activity and stability. As a synthetic chemist, in conjunction with the University of Houston’s Drug Discovery Institute, Gilbertson uses the ability to construct new molecular architectures and collaborates with biologists to take a new molecule all the way to validation in animal systems.

Gilbertson feels that Houston is the perfect place for this process to take place in part due to its proximity to organizations such as the Texas Medical Center and UTMB Health. Gilbertson collaborates with the Gulf Coast Consortium for Innovative Drug Discovery and Development (GCC IDDD). The GCC IDDD provides an opportunity to bring the scientific strengths of the local universities, like UH, together with biotech companies and the larger biomedical research community. (The Gulf Coast Consortia is a partnership between seven institutions that move progress in the biochemical discipline forward.)

UH possesses the world-class synthetic chemistry and medicinal chemistry necessary to develop small molecule drug leads. That means that in Houston, these drug trials can begin and hopefully start to make a difference in patients’ lives.

Category: Community Health

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