Oxfordshire science organisations join forces to provide training in structure-based drug design

A new PhD student has been appointed to a joint programme with the WTCHG's Oxford Protein Production Facility-UK (OPPF), Diamond Light Source, the UK's national synchrotron science facility, and Chroma Therapeutics. Victoria Arena will be based at the multi-disciplinary Research Complex and Harwell (RCaH), where she will undertake a 3 year PhD project in the area of structure-based drug design.

Victoria, who studied Biochemistry and Genetics at the University of Nottingham and then worked as a Research Assistant at the WTCHG, has joined the OPPF-UK, one of six research groups currently situated in the RCaH. The studentship is jointly funded by Diamond Light Source, the UK's national synchrotron science facility, the University of Oxford, and South Oxfordshire based Chroma Therapeutics, which focuses on the discovery and development of novel small molecule drugs.

Dec 10 Diamond_funded_PhD_student
PhD student Victoria Arena working with Dr Ray Owens, her supervisor, in OPPF-UK's laboratory at the RCaH

Oxfordshire's status as one of the best places in the world to study science is reflected in this training opportunity. While Victoria will be based full-time in the RCaH, the project will also involve using the state-of-the-art facilities for X-ray crystallography at Diamond and undertaking work placements in an industrial setting at Chroma Therapeutics.

Victoria's project will focus on the structure and mechanism of selective enzymes in the body with an overall aim of designing safer, more effective drugs. It will provide an excellent opportunity for training in structural biology and computational chemistry. Today's structure-based drug design programmes benefit greatly from X-ray crystallography facilities such as those available at Diamond, for instance a number of the new HIV drugs and Tamiflu were developed with the help of synchrotron studies.

Victoria Arena comments, "This project gives me a fantastic opportunity to work on biochemistry research that could, in the future, bring benefits to patients suffering from inflammatory diseases. I'm really looking forward to doing experiments at Diamond as I'm aware of the amazing potential of such facilities but have yet to gain first-hand experience at a synchrotron."

Dr Ray Owens, from the OPPF-UK, adds "Oxford University is delighted to be supporting Victoria in what promises to be an extremely interesting project. Hopefully this will be the first of many in a programme that offers synchrotron experience while also giving PhD students the opportunity to work in both academic and industrial settings."

For more information on Dr Owen's research, click here.