5th Annual Drug Discovery Congress 2018

The annual Drug Discovery Congress successfully brought together drug discovery scientists from across Wales in a collaborative environment to foster new research collaborations.

The programme included presentations by PhD and postdoctoral award holders, revealing a wealth of talent in their research to develop new therapeutic treatments in the areas of Oncology, Neuroscience and Infectious Disease.

Presentations were also delivered by Dr Alan Parker of Cardiff University and Dr George Johnson of Swansea University, who detailed the progression of research projects supported by NRN funding; Professor Cathy Thornton of Swansea University spoke about drug discovery in pregnancy and paediatrics, whilst Professor Paul Dyson of Swansea University spoke about the development of his research in bacterial mediated RNA interference as a therapy for solid tumours, a project initially funded by the NRN. Dr Justin John spoke about the development of NRN Technologies Ltd, a contract research organisation developed from NRN Platform Technologies.

Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, opened the second day of the event, where he outlined current health priorities for Welsh Government.

Since the Network began in late 2013 with funding from the Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, £5.9 million has been committed direct to Network drug discovery projects across Wales, facilitating collaborative engagement with over 330 partners. Bringing together leading academics from Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea Universities in over 143 research projects, £34.6 million in additional research funding has been generated and researchers have presented their work in over 361 conference presentations and had over 118 papers published in peer-reviewed journals.

The Network has surpassed the key performance indicators set by funders at project outset and these levels of output highlight the quality and quantity of research being undertaken by Network projects across Wales.

The Network has worked closely with a number of industry partners, the NHS and other major funding bodies with a strong focus on links to other funders, such as the Life Sciences Bridging Fund.

The Network was delighted to award the following prizes to PhD and postdoctoral project award holders at Congress 2018:

Round 3 PhD Studentships:

First Prize: Ben Thomas, Aberystwyth University: Mining ‘Omic data for novel antimicrobials using the AMPLY pipeline (pictured below, left)

Runner-up: David Cutress, Aberystwyth University: Towards Validation of an immune suppressor protein from liver fluke as a drug target (pictured below, right)

Round 4 PhD Studentships:

First Prize: Olivia Ogle, Cardiff University: Targeting zinc signalling to prevent cell division in cancer (below, left)

Runner-up: Benjamin Skalkoyannis, Swansea University: Targeting of interleukin-13 receptor (IL-13R) a2 expressing pancreatic cancer by a novel hybrid lytic peptide drug (below, right)

Postdoctoral award winner

Dr Helena Robinson, Bangor University: Small molecule inhibitors of Brachyury


Dr Alan Parker (top left), Dr George Johnson (top middle), Professor Cathy Thornton (top right), Vaughan Gething AM (bottom left), Professor Paul Dyson (bottom middle) and Dr Justin John (bottom right).