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Professor Steve Ward
Professor Steve Ward

Internal News - 16 October 2006

Scientists come to Bath to discuss exciting new drug prospects

Two hundred scientists from around the world are coming to Bath to discuss how a molecule implicated in a range of diseases could become a target for future treatments for cancer, inflammation, autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease.

Research has identified the enzyme PI 3-Kinase as playing a key role in a number of diseases, and many scientists and pharmaceutical companies are interested in developing treatments that block its function and prevent the disease from persisting.

The molecule is of particular interest because it appears in many different forms, each being linked to a specific set of diseases.

By developing compounds which can discriminate between the individual forms - hopefully blocking one form whilst leaving the others intact - researchers aim to be able to develop tailored treatments that are specific to one disease.

This would avoid the likely side-effects that would arise from administering broad spectrum drugs that inhibit all forms of the enzyme, not just the one known to be involved in the disease being treated.

The conference, PI3K Signalling and Disease, is part of a very successful series of prestigious meetings supported by the Biochemical Society and this is the third such meeting to be held on this topic in recent years.

This year, the conference will run from 6-9 November in the Assembly Rooms in Bath, and has attracted leading scientists from industry and academia from throughout the world.

“PI3Ks are involved in the regulation of a plethora of important functional events associated with a large range of diseases,” said Professor Steve Ward from the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology who has organised the event with Professor Melanie Welham, also from Bath, Bart Vanhaesebrock from University College London and Brian Hemmings from the Friedrich Miesher Institute in Basle.

“There are a few compounds which target PI3K that are already in pre-clinical and clinical trials, but the molecule is a very exciting drug target with a great deal of potential, so we are likely to see more and more in this area over coming years.

“The conference will help the leading scientists working in this area to address the key challenges that need to be overcome to help make the development in this area a reality.

“We have a stellar cast of speakers and presenters from academia and the pharmaceutical industry who will share the latest research findings and discuss future development in this exciting area.”

“Selective PI 3-kinase inhibitors are a Holy Grail for many pharmaceutical companies and really do have the potential to be the drug discovery event of the 21st Century.”