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A day in the life of Justin Bryans, Director of Drug Discovery

Posted: 29 October 2013 | | No comments yet

Justin Bryans talks to Drug Target Review about his work as Director of Drug Discovery at the Centre for Therapeutics Discovery, MRC Technology. Justin is also a member of the Drug Target Review Editorial Board.

Justin Bryans

Justin Bryans talks to Drug Target Review about his work as Director of Drug Discovery at the Centre for Therapeutics Discovery, MRC Technology

Drug discovery has always been my passion – the chance to be able to create something that can change people’s lives for the better is a rare opportunity in this world, and one that I am fortunate to be a part of. Every day, in my role as Director of Drug Discovery at MRC Technology, brings new opportunities to impact on patient benefit. A typical day for me starts early – we work in a global industry which never sleeps so I like to catch up on what has happened across the globe overnight. A scan of the various newsletters and journal summaries I’m signed up to quickly gets me up to speed with the latest news. Within all this information may be an opportunity to create a new collaboration to tackle a rare disease or even a novel drug target that we can capitalise on in our drug discovery team.

After this it is on to the scheduled business of the day. I catch up with my team on a frequent basis to hear about any breakthroughs or issues within any of our projects. Issues stimulate an impromptu brainstorming session to see if we can define a strategy that will circumvent or mitigate the problem. Keeping a handle on project progress and resource allocation is essential to expedite delivery.

I will often have meetings on strategic partnerships where we are creating a target validation network. This is an area I’m particularly excited about. Bringing together disease focussed charities with all their disease experts and patient groups alongside Pharma / Biotech companies who are looking for new validated targets, and coupling this with MRCT’s capability in disease association and early drug discovery will, in my view, deliver a highly effective shared risk model for target identification and validation.

At lunchtime I like to get out if possible. A walk to a local sandwich shop allows me to get some fresh air and gives me some thinking time on my own which is extremely valuable and a rare commodity in today’s world of 24 hour communications! Often I will mull over potential opportunities or issues and try to think about things from a different angle. I find this helps put issues in perspective and can often allow me to come up with suggestions to improve or enhance some of our strategies and projects.

Throughout the day I am able to access my emails. Within these there may be academics seeking help with advancing their projects or even people proposing new targets for us to work on. These interactions are the lifeblood of our pipeline so it is important that I reply as soon as I can to foster these relationships. In addition I will likely get several invitations to conferences and I always take a look at the programmes and speaker / delegate lists to pick the ones most relevant to us. Networking is important in this business and conferences provide an ideal chance to speak to key contacts.

I operate an open door policy at work so I will get a number of people dropping in to have a chat during the day. It may be to discuss some exciting new data or an idea or simply to catch up on what is happening across other parts of MRCT.

After a busy day it is time to go home and spend time with my family and prepare for the next day’s work.

About Justin Bryans

Justin Bryans is currently Director of Drug Discovery at the Medical Research Council Technology’s (MRCT) Centre for Therapeutics Discovery (CTD) based in London, UK. He gained a chemistry degree and a D.Phil. at the University of York followed by a post-doc at the University of Oxford under Professor Sir Jack Baldwin. Since then he has worked for over 20 years as a medicinal chemist in a number of Biotechnology and Pharma companies, including Xenova, Parke-Davis and Pfizer, developing clinical candidates for a wide range of diseases and more than 50 patent applications in the process. He joined MRCT in 2005 where he currently leads the drug discovery operation based on North London. His role involves working with some of the world’s leading academics to translate cutting edge biology towards clinical benefit, by applying MRCT’s drug discovery resources in a collaborative model, to develop high quality small molecule and antibody based leads and clinical candidates. These are then used for pivotal proof of concept studies to strengthen disease association and de-risk novel targets for diseases of high unmet need. These assets and their associated data packages are then partnered with Biotechnology or Pharma companies for clinical progression. MRCT has already helped develop two marketed drugs, TysabriTM and ActemraTM and has delivered other assets of which at least eight are still in active clinical development. Justin is also an Honorary Professor at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and undertakes teaching on drug discovery at QMUL, University College London and the Wellcome Trust. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

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