The Laboratory for Drug Discovery in Neurodegeneration (LDDN) is a collaborative academic group established to discover small molecules to develop a new generation of drugs to treat central nervous system and other diseases. The LDDN is part of the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Medical School. The LDDN works in close collaboration with principal investigators from the academic community and helps to transform their discoveries in the basic biology of disease into opportunities for drug discovery.

Medicinal Chemistry Focus

Originally, the LDDN was built around assay design, high-throughput screening, and medicinal chemistry. In 2015, in an effort to advance treatment methods for numerous neurodegenerative diseases, the LDDN now focuses exclusively on medicinal chemistry aspects of drug discovery.

Collaboration and Translational Research

The fastest way to develop real-life medical solutions is by accelerating the pace of discovery and then quickly applying knowledge of underlying disease mechanisms to the design and development of meaningful treatments. However, this approach — called “translational research” — rarely happens naturally or by accident. It requires that a broad range of expertise and technical know-how are brought together and coordinated. It also requires a sense of urgency and relentless focus on a common goal. That’s the approach of the LDDN, and our goal is to accelerate the discovery of new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

Organic Synthesis and Medicinal Chemistry Training

Traditionally, medicinal chemists were excellent synthetic organic chemists who joined the pharmaceutical industry and were trained during their first few years to become medicinal chemists. More recently, the medicinal chemistry and drug discovery landscape has changed, and there are fewer entry level positions in both big pharma and biotech for aspiring medicinal chemists to learn their trade. At the LDDN, we try to offer students opportunities to develop their synthetic chemistry and medicinal chemistry skills through hands on experience in one of our collaborated drug discovery projects. We have close links with Northeastern University, regularly bringing in students for a six month coop placement, and have begun to establish links with a number of European Universities to offer 6-12 month research placements at the LDDN.