Dr Graeme Sloan joined Charnwood Molecular as a Computational Chemist in June 2022.
Here Graeme outlines the journey that brought him to the company and specifically computer-aided drug design.
You describe working in industry as ‘lighting the fire’ for a career in drug discovery – how did that come about?
I would say my career first started at RedX Oncology, where I worked as a placement student in the medicinal chemistry department. I had been on my chemistry degree for a few years at this point but working in industry sparked a passion for drug discovery as a career for me. I continued along this path when I returned to university following my placement, carrying out research projects in synthetic and medicinal chemistry.
How did you pursue a drug discovery career?
My first step was to complete my Masters before going on to start my PhD – both at the University of Strathclyde - where my research bridged two departments. I was very fortunate to work with Dr Craig Jamieson in the department of Pure and Applied Chemistry and Prof. Robin Plevin in the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Science. My studies were built on a foundation of synthetic and medicinal chemistry and during this time, I utilised computational chemistry to complement my lab-based research with molecular modelling and structure-based drug design.
Outside of the research itself, what’s the most valuable skill you learned?
I think my cross-discipline PhD provided an ideal environment to communicate across disciplinary barriers. I presented regularly within both of my departments, often reporting biology results to chemists and vice versa. It’s certainly stood me in good stead throughout my career where I have to present to a range of audiences and adapt accordingly.
What are your top tips for progressing into a drug discovery career?
For me, it was working in CROs as a lab-based chemist but always being aware that computational chemistry was where my heart lay. I always sought out opportunities to gain experience and training wherever they arose. In my short time in industry, I became experienced with Schrödinger among other computational chemistry platforms. Additionally, I was gaining experience with workflow generation while learning to code with python and working in Knime. Eventually, I had enough experience under my belt to feel confident leaving the lab behind.
How was the transition from lab coat to computer full time?
I’m not going to lie, it was strange at first not being in the lab but as I mentioned before I knew computational chemistry was for me. While I enjoyed working in labs, I enjoy my work a lot more these days. With that said, I do occasionally miss the sense of community from working in a lab.
What appealed about your move to Charnwood Molecular?
The company is growing and computational chemistry is a core component of that. It’s extremely exciting to be part of building and developing a department. Working alongside Dr Iva Lukac is giving me so many opportunities to develop my knowledge and skills. I’m looking forward to applying all of the techniques I’ve learnt over the last few months at Charnwood, and in the years prior, to client projects and developing new medicines.