Pharmaceutical Design and Discovery

The Pharmaceutical Design and Discovery Unit in the interface between chemistry, biology and pharmaceutical technology integrates a strong core of the Faculty’s expertise in medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutical microbiology, natural product chemistry, chemoinformatics, and formulation. The ultimate goals of the unit are to discover better, more efficient and safer drug candidates against relevant human diseases, to discover chemical probes for studying biological processes as well as to develop innovative pharmaceutical applications and methods. Unit's principal investigators are listed below.
Henri Xhaard, Unit Leader

I received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 2006 (Åbo Akademi University, Finland). Since 2008, I have served as group leader in the CDR where he leads the Computational Drug Discovery Group. My main interests are computational drug discovery, molecular modeling, sequence-structure-function relationships in proteins, and membrane proteins (especially G protein-coupled receptors and transporters).

Tiina Sikanen

We develop new in vitro technology for studying the mechanistic basis of the metabolic interactions of drugs with one another and with environmental chemicals, with increasing focus on cytochrome P450 (CYP) metabolism and inter-individual variation in the activity of CYP enzymes (precision medicine). In addition to human health (safety of pharmaceuticals in human use), we research the elimination of pharmaceuticals (in the environment) in nontarget species, with focus on CYP metabolism in fish. Our technological basis relies on the use of microfluidics and polymer microfabrication and biofunctionalization, including a range a custom techniques developed for through-flow, droplet-based and lateral flow enzyme assays as well as for miniaturization of chemical separation systems and detector elements. In addition to drug metabolism, we also develop microfluidic cell cultures, i.e., human organ-on-a-chip systems, and study the associated cell-material interactions.

Erik Wallén

Synthetic methods for accessing novel multiply substituted scaffold-based small-molecular compounds for drug discovery. The studied scaffolds include both privileged structures and less studied scaffolds in medicinal chemistry. Recent examples of scaffolds are chromone, quinolone and azulene. There is a special interest in synthesis of analogues of hit compounds, which are challenging to develop into drugs. These include mimicry of peptide motifs with non-peptidic building blocks and synthesis of scaffold-based peptide mimetics. This research also comprises a general interest in heterocycles in medicinal chemistry and synthesizing ring replacements/analogues.

Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma

Focusing on drug discovery and applying and developing methods in synthetic medicinal chemistry, our group is unique at the University of Helsinki in translating the increasing structural information of drug targets or ligands into the synthesis of novel compounds that do not exist in the current commercial compound libraries. These new compounds serve as valuable probes in the research of new drug targets or as chemical entities in the search for novel therapeutic compounds. Beyond medicinal chemistry of antimicrobial and anti-biofilm agents, we focus on protein kinases and chemical induction of cellular reprogramming and differentiation.