Albert Antolín and María Martí


Two doctoral students of GRIB awarded with the Doctoral School PhD Extraordinary Prize of the PhD Programme in Biomedicine of the UPF

Seven PhD Extraordinary Awards have been given of a total of 75 PhD theses defended in the academic year 2014-2015. Albert Antolín and Maria Martí have been awarded with this extraordinary Prize of the PhD Programme in Biomedicine.

The thesis of Albert Antolín, directed by Dr. Jordi Mestres, head of the Systems Pharmacology Group of GRIB, was entitled "The Impact of Polypharmacology on Chemical Biology" and focused on the selectivity of small molecules on their target proteins and its implications on pharmacological safety.

The thesis questioned the validity of the selectivity premise and warned on the implications in case the premise does not hold. To do that, he used computer models to anticipate potential affinities of chemical probes to proteins other than the protein target intended and prospectively validated those predictions with in vitro experiments. The work confirmed that chemical probes do interact with multiple proteins and that some of those interactions may confound the conclusions drawn in chemical biology experiments. The relevance of these results may influence the way chemical biology will be done in the future and this was recognized by highlighting his work in the cover of ACS Chemical Biology, a reference journal in the field.

Albert Antolín is currently a Marie Curie Tecniospring postdoctoral fellow at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM).

The thesis of Maria Martí, directed by Dr. Manuel Pastor and Dr. Jana Selent, head and PI respectively of the PharmacoInformatics group of GRIB, was entitled "Ligand selectivity at GPCRs: from multi-target binding profiles to biased agonism" and focused on the detection of molecules that enable the development of more efficient and secure antipsychotic drugs.

The thesis studied the structural basis of biased agonism in GPCRs. More concretely, this thesis highlights and discusses the importance of considering the novel concept of biased agonism for the rational design of novel compounds with improved therapeutic profile and provides novel insights into structural determinants of biased agonism that are of high value for guiding the rational design of new biased agonists. Another important contribution has been the rational design of compounds that promote an unprecedented level of signalling bias at the 5-HT2A receptor, which are currently used to interrogate the importance of particular pathways in conditions like schizophrenia. Notably, preliminary assays in a mouse model of hallucinogenesis have provided promising evidence in this direction. These results could foster the development of new serotonin 2A inhibitors against schizophrenia devoid of some of the side effects of current antipsychotic drugs.

María Martí is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry of the Philipps University of Marburg, Germany.

The Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS) at the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) runs a PhD program in Biomedicine. The PhD Extraordinary Prizes will be officially presented at the UPF Graduation Ceremony for master's and doctoral degrees that will take place on July 1st, 2016, at the Ciutadella Campus. Full details about the UPF Graduation Ceremony can be found here.

We congratulate both for this award!

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