Meet Dr Andrew Pannifer – Head of Cheminformatics

Read about Andrew's role at Medicines Discovery Catapult and his fascination with chemistry and biology

Medicines Discovery Catapult

What team do you work in, and what does this team do?

I work in the Cheminformatics team with Anna, Charlie, and Kepa. The role of our team is to use the massive amounts of chemical, biochemical, protein, and chemical structural data out there to help answer questions that drug discovery organisations encounter:

  • Are there any commercially available compounds that will inhibit my target protein?
  • Will this compound get into the brain?
  • Which compounds should we make next?
  • How does this compound bind to the target protein?
  • Will this compound be metabolised quickly?
  • What are the likely side effects of this compound so we can set up assays to test?
  • Are there drugs we can combine for the best effect?
  • How might we make this new compound?

We use statistics, machine learning, and AI to do all of this.

What’s your role in the Cheminformatics team?

I’m the Head of the group. I have 18 years’ experience of drug discovery projects in big pharma and academic units under my belt, this means I can try to spot interesting and practically useful opportunities where we can work.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Chemistry and Biology have never stopped fascinating me, and drug discovery is a field where you can apply them in “the real world.” Using large scale data analysis is a particularly effective way of doing this. It is also very rewarding to see people in the group grow in their roles.

How long have you worked at Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC), and why did you join?

It will be two years this December (2019). My previous role was all about giving SMEs and academics access to industry-standard drug discovery capabilities and unlock potential new therapies. I really enjoyed it, and MDC has similar aims.

Tell us about the work you’ve done, either at MDC or elsewhere, that you’re most proud of

In my previous role, we developed a new application to triage output from High Throughput Screens for an international consortium of pharma companies and public organisations. It was a very complex technical and organisational job with a lot of time pressure, but it worked, and we got an award for it at the Bio-IT World meeting. It was definitely one of my proudest moments.

How do you stay connected with what’s happening in the industry?

Mainly conferences – both the presentations and catching up with former colleagues. Also, I read a lot of literature that keeps me connected in the industry… and talking to John Overington, who heads up the group. He is great for keeping up with new developments.

Tell us something you like doing outside of work

My love-hate relationship with running continues. I generally love it when it’s going well and hate it when it’s one of my slower days. I’m almost back to loving it!

I enjoy going to Norway once a year fishing and embracing the extraordinarily expensive food and drinks out there. I also enjoy my time renovating my flat up in Glasgow and eating out with friends.

Learn more about Informatics and how the team discover and connect data to build new algorithms, AI and machine learning approaches.