The development of drugs to treat brain illnesses such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and brain cancer is a crucial but challenging task. New discovery science is needed to identify targets and find ways to modulate them with drugs, which includes developing drugs that can penetrate the brain blood barrier, a protective filter encapsulating the brain.

To that end, the Virginia Drug Discovery Consortium is being created to help chemists, neuroscientists, pharmacists, and industry partners band together to discover and implement creative approaches for treating the brain, as well as other diseases.

In Virginia, researchers from seven institutions, including Virginia Tech, will participate in the first Virginia Drug Discovery Consortium Symposium. The VirginiaBrainRx Symposium on Drug Discovery for the Brain is scheduled May 23-34 at the Omni Richmond Hotel in Richmond, Virginia.

Academic researchers, higher education administrators, employees of pharmaceutical and biotech companies, university technology transfer office staff, and students with an interest in neuroscience are invited to attend. Registration, including all meals and breaks, is $100 for faculty and staff and $50 for students before Wednesday, May 11. Members of the news media also are invited.

Featured lecturers will include Phil Skolnick, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse; Craig Lindsley, co-director of the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery; Todd Sherer, chief operating officer of the Michael J. Fox Foundation; Thomas Laughren, director of regulatory affairs at Massachusetts General Hospital Clinical Trials Network and Institute; and Darryle Schoepp, vice president and therapeutic area head of neuroscience at Merck & Co. 

In addition, there will be panel discussion on academic-industrial collaborations and an opportunity for attendees to present a poster to showcase their brain-related work.

The goal is to further collaboration, especially when it comes to the discovery, development, and delivery of drugs to treat brain illness, said David Kingston, University Distinguished Professor of chemistry in Virginia Tech's College of Science.

“The National Institutes of Health Roadmap for Research states, ‘The scale and complexity of today’s … research problems increasingly demand that scientists move beyond the confines of their own discipline and explore new organizational models for team science,’ and this symposium has the goal of furthering collaboration, especially when it comes to the discovery, development, and delivery of drugs to treat brain illness” said Kingston, who also directs the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery and is an affiliate faculty member of Virginia Tech’s Fralin Life Science Institute.

The symposium is intended to be the first meeting of the planned Virginia Drug Discovery Consortium, according to event organizers.

“Effective chemical probe and drug discovery requires the right ecosystem and considerable teamwork. The Virginia Drug Discovery Consortium is seeking to stimulate this in the Commonwealth,” said John S. Lazo, professor of pharmacology and chemistry at the University of Virginia, as well as director of the Fiske Drug Discovery Laboratory and an adjunct professor at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “The brain is perhaps one of the most challenging sites for therapeutic intervention, which is why this meeting is so important.”

Symposium sponsors include Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Eastern Virginia Medical School, and the Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation.

For more information, contact David Kingston.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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