New Drug Discovery Course

Students conducting experiments in Drug Discovery

The Department of Biological Sciences began offering a new Drug Discovery course that was developed by Dr. Lukasz Ciesla in the spring of 2019. This research laboratory course gives students the opportunity to learn various approaches used in drug discovery from natural sources.

Natural products, such as plant extracts, constitute an invaluable source of biologically active molecules and it is estimated that up to 70% of currently used medicines were first identified in nature. In 2015 the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded for the discovery of potent natural molecules able to treat parasitic diseases. Unfortunately, the identification of new potential medicines from plants is not an easy task due to the high complexity of natural samples. Recently, novel approaches allowing for rapid identification and extraction of biologically active compounds have been proposed to speed up the identification process for new medicines.A wipe board covered in equations and formulas from the Drug Discovery course

Students enrolled in the Drug Discovery course learn to use these innovative approaches in the identification of new medicines. Students work in small groups on individual projects aiming at the detection of plant-derived molecules targeting specific proteins in the human body; for example, enzymes or transmembrane proteins. Apart from designing and developing highly innovative bioassays, the course participants learn to use multiple analytical and pharmacological techniques, such as: accelerated solvent extraction, high-performance liquid chromatography, high-resolution mass spectrometry, and cell-based functional assays. Students also learn how to analyze and report their own data and those published in scientific literature. The course provides knowledge and skills valuable in graduate, medical and pharmacy schools.