Chemical biology

Dr. David Thomas - Owen Egan

Chemical biology uses small molecules to study and manipulate biological systems. Using these tools and compounds, scientists drive the development of modern therapeutics to treat human diseases. This research relies on resources that are available to researchers worldwide in the search for understanding biomedical issues related to human health and empowers their translation of their discoveries into new therapies.

“We have already demonstrated the tremendous potential of this field to impact biopharmaceutical research in a significant way. As a fundamental stepping stone to drug discovery and development, the field of chemical biology allows us to explore the functions of living systems, to understand the basic mechanisms of disease and to devise innovative new therapies.”

Dr. David Thomas,
Principal Investigator, Chemical Biology,
Canada Research Chair in Molecular Genetics

Creating the village well - Chemical biology at a glance

As high-tech and innovative as it is, Dr. David Thomas compares the Life Sciences Complex to a much simpler, more traditional structure. “You have to create the village well so people will come and talk and interact,” he says. As a gathering place that brings top researchers together, the Complex will do that, and much more.

“This sharing of information between some of the best researchers from various disciplines is an important part of our vision of this building,” says Thomas, a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Genetics, who, along with Dr. Jerry Pelletier, leads the Complex’s chemical biology thematic field. At the interface between chemistry and biology, these scientists identify proteins or key pathways that are important in the disease process. The new Life Sciences Complex provides them with modern resources and an extremely rich environment to extend knowledge and build value into their discoveries.

“Chemical biology acts as a bridge between laboratory research and clinical trials,” says Thomas. “It is no longer sufficient to just make a discovery. Today, people question where that discovery is going to take us: you cured this yesterday, but what did you cure today and what are you going to do tomorrow?”

Its focus on determining protein function and elucidating the molecular mechanism of diseases makes chemical biology a central component of the Complex’s other thematic approaches. Of the more than 100 researchers dedicated to this field in the new Complex, many are renowned for their work on the basic biologic processes of cystic fibrosis, cancer, infectious diseases and auto-immune disorders, and their findings have transformed scientific knowledge of these life-threatening conditions. The Complex’s innovative infrastructure will provide researchers with the necessary screening and imaging tools to take their investigations to a whole new level.

Much like the village well, this community of investigators will work together in the Life Sciences Complex in pursuit of a common goal—to explore the molecular components of disease. Their contributions will help develop potential life-saving therapies that will improve the health of our entire global village.