Scott Webster and drug discovery
Dr Scott Webster is a Reader in Drug Discovery for Cardiovascular Science at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and a graduate of the University of Edinburgh.
What are you currently working on?
I work on various drug discovery projects across a range of disease areas. My team works with colleagues within the University to help them develop potential therapeutic targets towards making new medicines.
At the moment, we are working on projects to develop medicines for Alzheimer’s disease, acute pancreatitis, fibrotic liver disease and multiple sclerosis. The projects are at different stages in the discovery and development process. Our most advanced project is for Alzheimer’s disease where we plan to test our discovery in people with disease this year (this is known as a Phase 2 clinical trial). This work is being conducted by Actinogen Medical, an Australian company who licensed our compound (UE2343/Xanamem).
What do you hope will come out of your research?
My area of research is known as ‘translational research’. This is where we take standard basic and clinical research and use our knowledge and experience to turn those findings into something that will have a commercial value – in this case a medicine, but it could also be a diagnostic tool. My biggest hope is that our work will generate a medicine that will improve the lives of people with disease.
How did you get here?
I previously worked in a small biotechnology company where I was responsible for projects aiming to develop new antibiotics. I came back to Edinburgh to start a drug discovery team with professors Brian Walker and Jonathan Seckl. This ultimately led to the discovery of a drug candidate that we progressed into humans and allowed me to expand our activities and work with colleagues who were also keen to take their findings towards drug discovery.
Who are you collaborating with?
My close collaborators within the University are Drs Damian Mole, Jonathan Fallowfield and Anna Williams – bright and enthusiastic people who are brilliant to work with. Damian and I secured one of the first worldwide Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) collaborations with the pharmaceutical company GSK, which has been very successful. I’m sure this positive experience helped Jonathan and I bring GSK onboard for a second project. My collaboration with Anna came about after being introduced by Diane Harbison, former head of BD at BioQuarter. We are working with Sanofi/Genzyme to develop a new target for Multiple Sclerosis.
All in all it shows how important it is to do good work and develop strong links with colleagues across all areas of the University and in industry as you never know what they might lead to.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
Let me think about this one…