A Czech-Israeli summer school connects cutting-edge science and the global pharmaceutical industry
In the first week of August 2023, Israeli and Czech scientists, together with representatives of the global pharmaceutical industry, have convened to talk about innovations in drug development at the annual event entitled Prague–Weizmann Summer School in Drug Discovery and Development, this time in the Israeli city of Rehovot. High-quality lectures are attended by mostly PhD students and postdoctoral fellows from 26 countries, who delve into the secrets of the adventure leading to the creation of a new drug, from basic research to its introduction into clinical practice.
The lectures are organized equally by IOCB Prague, the University of Chemical Technology in Prague, both Czech Republic, and in the last five years also by the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. Distinguished members of the academic community are joined as usual by representatives of large pharmaceutical companies. This year, the participating companies include Pfizer, AbbVie, NeuroDerm, Solgate and Anima Biotech.
The goal is to better prepare students for the pitfalls associated with the development of new drugs. Whether they encounter difficulties at the beginning of their journey, that is, in the laboratories of scientific institutions, when striving to secure necessary financial resources, or while building cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, preparedness always helps. In practice, there is considerable competition and only a fraction of promising molecules have a chance to succeed. It is important how well the system for translating results of scientific research into practice—by a process called technology transfer—is set up.
Prof. Martin Fusek, Vice-Director of IOCB Prague and CEO of its subsidiary IOCB Tech, adds: ‘Despite significant progress, we still cannot treat many diseases, among other reasons because the development of new drugs is highly complicated. Everything begins with basic research into the mechanisms of a disease and ends with the production of original substances that can positively affect pathological changes. To simplify and speed up this process, it is necessary to ever increasingly interconnect academic research with work at pharmaceutical companies. That is why it is important for students to understand the regularities of the development of original medicines so that, in the future, they can put their scientific ideas into practice more effectively.’
Martin Fusek first came up with the idea to organize a summer school focused on drug development in 2014. Then, it drew only about four dozen participants. Over the years, the event has gained international renown, and this year it has attracted almost two hundred students and young scientists to the Israeli city of Rehovot.
Speakers in this year's lecture series include a number of faces from IOCB Prague. One of them is the director of the IOCB, Professor Jan Konvalinka. He has long appreciated the symbiosis between chemists from IOCB Prague and mainly biologists from Israel. ‘The Weizmann Institute is one of the most prestigious scientific institutions in the world. We are proud that experts from this institute are our partners in organizing this conference. Thanks to it, the scientific cooperation of our institutes is expanding, which is beneficial, last but not least, to improving the conditions for the translation of scientific results into practice,’ says Jan Konvalinka.
Every year, the Prague–Weizmann Summer School in Drug Discovery and Development offers thirty lectures, and the focus of the event as well as its outcomes fit perfectly into the long-term strategy of the IOCB. It rests on three basic pillars: the promotion of cutting-edge science, the translation of its results into practice, and international cooperation.