Mount Sinai researcher Schlessinger speaking at UNK’s Science Café

WHAT: University of Nebraska at Kearney Science Café

HOSTED BY: Sigma Xi The Scientific Research Honor Society

TITLE: “Harnessing Computational Approaches for Rational Drug Design”

TOPIC: The three-dimensional structures of proteins are critical for their functional role, and visualization of these structures can guide the design of small molecules modulating their activities, such as therapeutic drugs. Avner Schlessinger, an assistant professor of pharmacological sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, will describe a computational approach to guide the discovery of small molecule modulators for challenging human protein targets. Specifically, he will discuss models generated in his group of proteins in various pharmacologically relevant conformations, and experimental results derived from virtual screening of millions of purchasable and synthetically accessible compounds against these protein structures. Next, he will describe how his lab uses statistical and machine learning approaches to refine structural models and optimize small molecule hits. His group has successfully applied integrated approaches to characterize nutrient transporters that play a key role in cancer metabolism, as well as protein kinases, signaling molecules that constitute one of the most important families of therapeutic targets. His results have provided useful chemical tools to characterize disease networks, as well as a framework for developing efficacious lead compounds against emerging therapeutic targets.

PRESENTER: Schlessinger serves as associate director of the Mount Sinai Center for Therapeutics Discovery and co-director of the Pharmacology, Discovery and Therapeutics Training Area. The overall goal of his lab is to improve and automate the structure-based drug discovery process by developing and applying computational methods, and to characterize disease pathways, with a long-term goal of developing drugs against novel targets. Schlessinger graduated from Tel Aviv University with a Bachelor of Science in biology and chemistry and received his doctorate from Columbia University in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. Following his graduate studies, he was an NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, where he established methods for structure-based drug design and used these approaches to rationally design tool compounds for membrane proteins. Schlessinger serves on the editorial boards of PLOS Computational Biology and the Journal of General Physiology. He is also an advisory board member of the ReSolute Transporter Consortium, as well as a member of the International Transporter Consortium.

TIME: 5:30 p.m.

DATE: Monday, Oct. 14

PLACE: The Loft, Cunningham’s Journal, 15 W. 23rd St., Kearney

CONTACT: Allen Thomas, UNK associate professor of chemistry, 308.865.8490,