Boehringer Ingelheim scientist to discuss drug discovery breakthrough

April 21 lecture to explain major technological advances in drug screening

DANBURY, CONN. — Dr. E. Michael August, senior principal scientist in the High Throughput Biology Group at Ridgefield-based Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, will report from the front lines of current technological breakthroughs revolutionizing the process of drug discovery in a lecture on Thursday, April 21, at Western Connecticut State University.

August will discuss “High Throughput Screening in Drug Discovery: Finding the Needle in the Haystack” at 7 p.m. in Room 125 of the Science Building on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. Admission to the talk, sponsored by the WCSU “Science at Night” lecture series, will be free and the public is invited to attend. A reception with light refreshments will follow in the Science Building Atrium.

The experimentation method known as high throughput screening (HTS) has transformed scientific testing to discover new drugs by utilizing computer data processing and control software, robotics automation, and sophisticated liquid handling and detection methods to enable researchers to screen vastly increased numbers of compound samples within a short time for potential usefulness in drug treatments. In his position at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, August is responsible for development of test compounds, or assays, and for HTS analysis of these target substances to identify compounds for further investigation as potential drugs for the treatment of inflammatory, cardiometabolic and viral diseases.

Recipient of a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from The George Washington University and a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the University of Illinois, August began his research career as a post-doctoral fellow at Yale University’s department of pharmacology in the laboratory of Dr. William Prusoff. He served as a senior staff fellow in the biological chemistry laboratory at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Prior to joining Boehringer Ingelheim, he led the HTS group at the biopharmaceutical company Repligen, and helped to establish a natural product screening program at the biotechnology firm Phytera.

“The talk will focus on the principles and practice of high throughput screening as an integral component of the drug discovery process,” August said. “Although relatively new, HTS is a rapidly expanding field that combines biochemistry and cutting-edge laboratory automation to uncover potential new drug candidates by testing tens to hundreds of thousands of samples per day.”

Automation of the process of preparing, incubating and analyzing assay plates has combined with computerized data collection and analysis to provide the capacity in HTS systems to test 100,000 or more compounds per day. Since only a small fraction of compounds screened ultimately produce leads for further research and development of potential drugs, HTS technology has achieved a major breakthrough in drug development by dramatically shortening the timeframe and expanding the volume of assay screenings conducted simultaneously in the laboratory.

Boehringer Ingelheim’s establishment of the High Throughput Biology Group at the Ridgefield research facility reflects the critical importance of the HTS process in advancing the company’s pharmaceutical mission. “Research and development has been the foundation of Boehringer Ingelheim’s success, and continues to be the major driver of innovative new medicines for the treatment of diseases with an unmet therapeutic need,” the company website noted.

For more information, contact WCSU Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Thomas Philbrick at philbrickt@wcsu.edu or (203) 837-8773.

 
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