UCL School of Pharmacy


Third Frank Fish Memorial Lecture - Prof Verena Dirsch

25 April 2014–31 December 2014, 12:00 am–12:00 am

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UCl School of Pharmacy

On October 16th, Professor Verena Dirsch, a leading researcher in molecular pharmacognosy from the University of Vienna gave an exciting insight into developing new medicines derived from natural sources in this year's Frank Fish Memorial Lecture. Her lecture entitled "Bioactives from Natural Sources – new opportunities using approaches from molecular biology" gave a window into this exciting field. 

Summary: Natural products are a key source for lead structures and drug discovery. About 50% of small molecule-based drugs introduced during 1981 to 2010 had been of natural product-based origin (Newman & Cragg 2012). To date, natural products are widely acknowledged as privileged structures with a high biodiversity, intrinsic affinity to biological receptors, and a higher drug-likeness than synthetic combinatorial libraries. Nevertheless there are challenges that need to be met when working with natural material, such as the incompatibility of crude extracts with enzyme-based high-throughput screening systems. Therefore, smart approaches are helpful to avoid large-scale random screenings, such as the implementation of in silico tools. The first part of the talk will highlight an example of collaborative natural product research in Austria involving six universities meeting important challenges of natural product research. The second part will show that natural products are not only effective in lead and drug discovery programs but also as chemical probes that can be used to dissect biological systems.

Speaker profile: Prof Verena M Dirsch is a pharmacist who graduated from the University of Munich (LMU, Germany) and received her doctoral degree (summa cum laude) 1993 for a thesis mentored by Prof Hildebert Wagner at the University of Munich. With a fellowship from the German Research Council (DFG) she then joined the group of Prof Koji Nakanishi, Department of Chemistry, Columbia University; New York. 1995 she went back to Munich and accepted a research assistant position in the group of Prof Angelika Vollmar, first at the Institute of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmacy at the Veterinary School and since 1998 at the Department of Pharmacy, University of Munich. Since 2004 she is full professor at the University of Vienna, and since 2006 head of the Department of Pharmacognosy at the University of Vienna. Since 2008 she is also Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Vienna. She is speaker of the faculty research focus 'Drug Discovery from Nature'.

Contact: Prof Michael Heinrich