Iwan de Esch appointed professor Biocomputational Chemistry for Drug Innovation

As of 1 October 2013, VU University appoints Iwan de Esch as professor of Biocomputational Chemistry for Drug Innovation at the Faculty of Sciences. De Esch focuses his research on studying molecular interactions and the innovative development of new medicines.

09/30/2013 | 10:46 AM

Iwan de EschThe appointment of De Esch bridges the research areas Pharmacochemistry and  Computational Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Amsterdam Institute for Molecules, Medicines and Systems (AIMMS). These areas have been identified as focus centres in the sector plan Physics and Chemistry 2011-2016.

Biocomputational Chemistry for Drug Innovation
The chair Biocomputational Chemistry for Drug Innovation aims to understand and predict interactions between biologically active substances and their molecular targets, such as receptors and enzymes. By combining biocomputational research with fragment-based drug design and the synthesis of new biologically active molecules, molecular insights are obtained that allow for the innovative development of novel medicines. Within the Division of Medicinal Chemistry – where De Esch becomes the third chair holder – these computational studies and synthesis efforts are complemented with molecular pharmacology, biochemical and biophysical investigations in order to come to a better understanding of the mode of action of (potential) drugs.

In the Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, this chair joins efforts with the Divisions of Theoretical Chemistry and Molecular Toxicology to further strengthen (bio)computational research. De Esch will use improved understanding of ligand-protein interactions for rational design and synthesis of biologically active molecules. These applications allow fruitful collaborations with other research groups within AIMMS and the VU University Medical Center.

Valorization and education
De Esch is co-founder of three spin-off biotech companies, illustrating the valorisation potential of his research. Moreover, he is involved in Science, Business & Innovation research, that focuses on the valorisation of scientific knowledge. De Esch’s scientific and valorisation expertise also plays an important role in the Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Drug Discovery & Safety, Science, Business & Innovation and at the Amsterdam University College.

De Esch’s career
De Esch studied Organic Chemistry at Radboud University Nijmegen. From 1994 to 1998, he performed his PhD studies at the Department of Pharmacochemistry at VU University in the group of Prof. dr. Henk Timmerman. Subsequently, he performed post-doctoral research in the Drug Design Group at the University of Cambridge (UK). The academic research of this group resulted in the biotech De Novo Pharmaceuticals, which De Esch co-founded in 2000 and where he worked as a group and project leader.

De Esch returned to academia in 2003 and became assistant and subsequently associate professor in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry at VU University. He established the successful research line fragment-based drug design and became co-founder of the spin-offs IOTA Pharmaceuticals (2007) en Griffin Discoveries (2009). In 2011, he was awarded the Galenus Research Price for his work on fragment-based drug discovery and the valorization of his research. De Esch has received many research grants, amongst others from Top Institute Pharma, Technology Foundation STW, EU-FP7 andempty the Innovative Medicines Initiative.

Recent publications
Fragment growing induces conformational changes in acetylcholine-binding protein: a structural and thermodynamic analysis.

Small and colorful stones make beautiful mosaics: fragment-based chemogenomics.