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Advancement of Research Capability for the Development of New Functional Compounds

Final Report Summary - ARCADE (Advancement of Research Capability for the Development of New Functional Compounds)

Executive Summary:

The ARCADE project was initiated by the Institute of Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry (IOPC), later renamed the Division of Organic and Medicinal Chemistry (DOMC), in National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRF) in the convergent region of Attiki in Greece. Its objectives were to advance research capability in areas that focus on the design and synthesis of functional compounds and, more specifically, of bioactive compounds and materials. This was accomplished by means of the following tasks:

- Collaborations with other European research groups. Fourteen such groups from nine EU member or associated states were involved in the project. Exchange visits with these groups took place to aid the transfer of new knowledge and to reinforce the research potential of the DOMC.
- Recruitment of young post-doctoral researchers with expertise in eight key areas of activity within the DOMC. In all, 13 such researchers were involved in the project for a total of 298 person-months.
- Acquisition of essential new equipment. The main such acquisition concerned the establishment of a new Mass Spectrometry facility with two LC-MS instruments, one for advanced high accuracy work and one for more routine experiments. These were complemented by a protein purification facility and a high-power computational system. In addition, the existing NMR facility was upgraded by the acquisition of a triple resonance accessory.
- Three workshops on specialist topics were organised as well as an International Conference on Chemistry for Health.
- Dissemination of scientific results was achieved through peer-reviewed publications and by presentations at national and international conferences.
- Public awareness activities, including the project website, seminars, poster displays and lecture sessions, were arranged for various sections of the general public.
- A substantial set of reports and deliverables was made available to the EC, while an independent International Advisory Board provided its own report on the progress and achievements of the project.

In summary, the Arcade project provided an excellent opportunity for the DOMC to reinforce its research capability in all the areas in which it is active and also to raise awareness of the quality of its research and facilities.

Project Context and Objectives:

The ARCADE project was initiated by the Institute of Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry (IOPC) which, at the time, was one of the six institutes comprising the National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRF) which is situated in the convergent region of Attiki in Greece. During the course of the project, in 2012, the IOPC merged with the Institute of Biological Research and Biotechnology, which was also part of the NHRF, and became the Division of Organic and Medicinal Chemistry (DOMC) within the newly formed Institute of Biology, Medicinal Chemistry and Biotechnology.

The particular aim of the ARCADE project has been to reinforce the DOMC’s research activities in the areas that focus on the design and synthesis of functional compounds and, more specifically, of bioactive compounds and materials. As such, the project builds on the DOMC’s existing expertise in the design, synthesis and analysis of new compounds with potential applications in medicinal chemistry, catalysis and materials science. The specific research objectives relate to:

- The design, study and synthesis of compounds targeting major diseases such as myocardial infarction, type 2 diabetes, cancer, inflammatory disorders, neglected diseases, malaria and neurodegenerative syndromes.
- The development of the Mass Spectrometry and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance infrastructure to pursue promising lines of research in the area of structural biology and chemistry in combination with increasing capability in X-ray protein crystallography.
- Preparation of libraries of bioactive compounds.
- Investigations concerning nonlinear optical materials, near-infrared chromophores, homogeneous catalysts and dendrimers.
- Development of new routes to nanomolecules and transition metal catalysts and the study of their applications.

Within the ARCADE project, five specific actions were invoked to achieve the desired objectives:

- New partnerships were established or existing ones strengthened further. A total of 14 high level research institutions from 9 EU member or associated states were eventually involved in the project in this capacity.
- The research capability of the DOMC was also reinforced through the recruitment of post-doctoral researchers with experience in the areas of a) mass spectrometry applications and techniques, b) characterization and study of proteins made available from the new purification facility, c) screening of potential drug molecules, fragment-based approaches to drug design, d) synthesis tasks concerning bioactive compounds, organic nanomolecular materials (e.g. dendrimers or dendritic polymers), chiral molecules, transition metal complex catalysts and organocatalysts, and d) computation of basic properties of large molecules.
- The infrastructure of the DOMC was enhanced through the establishment of a new Mass Spectrometry facility with two new instruments. The capabilities of this facility were complemented by the acquisition of advanced equipment for the purification of proteins and by a substantial upgrade to the DOMC’s computational potential. Also, the existing Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy facility was upgraded in order to tackle with the demands of high-level structure investigations with biomacromolecules.
- Three specialised workshops and an International Conference on Chemistry for Health were organised in order to promote scientific aspects related to the activities of the DOMC.
- General information was disseminated through public awareness activities for specific sections of the general public as well as via the project’s website and printed material.

Project Results:

Within the project the project, experienced researchers have been recruited for a total of almost 300 person-months to fill 8 post-doctoral positions in areas of immediate relevance to the activities

of the DOMC and its future research objectives. A substantial number of short and long visits have been made by researchers to Arcade Partner Groups and vice versa, and this has enabled the reinforcement of existing collaborations and the initiation of new ones. A major upgrade of the infrastructure has also been made possible. Two new mass spectrometers have been acquired, one for high resolution accurate mass studies and the other for more routine analyses. In addition, a protein production and purification system, new HPLC equipment and a cluster computing system have been acquired to enhance existing capability and to reinforce the impact of the new mass spectrometry instruments. A third channel accessory for 1H/13/C/15N triple resonance studies has also been acquired for the existing 600MHz NMR spectrometer. This has enabled advanced investigations into the properties of large biologically important molecules such as peptides and proteins. As part of the activities for the dissemination of scientific results, an International Conference on Chemistry Health was held in Athens in September 2012, while three specialised workshops have been organised covering a) Asymmetric Synthesis and Non-Conventional Advanced Synthetic Techniques for Fine Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals (2010), b) Design of Bioactive Molecules and Materials (2011), and c) Advanced Mass Spectrometric and NMR Methods (2012). A number of other meetings have also been organised in Athens which were attended by the Arcade Partner Groups and members of the Advisory Board as listed in the attached document. To date, 35 research papers on work supported by the Arcade project have been published or accepted for publication in peer reviewed journals and results have also been presented orally or by poster at a large number of conferences, symposia and workshops. Dissemination activities including presentations, demonstrations, posters and the project web-site have also been implemented in order to promote the institute’s activities to students, the general public and to stakeholders. A fuller description of the achievements of the project can be found in the attached report.

Potential Impact:

The Arcade project is expected to display its impact in the following areas:

- Establishment or strengthening of partnerships with fourteen high level research institutions.
- The project has provided a very good opportunity for young post-doctoral researchers to further their career potential. This is considered to be especially important at a time when career opportunities for young people are few and those who have been trained to a high level will have the more likelihood of success.
- The new infrastructure which has been acquired through the Arcade project grant will provide for an increased research capability in:
a) Mass spectrometry applications and techniques, b) the characterization and study of proteins made available from the protein purification facility, c) the screening of potential drug molecules and the application of fragment-based approaches to drug design using a combination of mass spectrometry, computational techniques and NMR, d) the study of synthetic approaches for the production of bioactive compounds, organic nanomolecular materials, dendrimers or dendritic polymers, chiral molecules, transition metal complex catalysts and organocatalysts, and e) the computation of basic properties of large molecules.
- The new mass spectrometry facility, in combination with existing capability for NMR and X-ray structural studies, will enable the DOMC to provide specialised integrated state of the art services which are currently unparalleled in Greece to third parties from academia and industry.
- The new capabilities of the DOMC have also impacted on the production of many peer reviewed papers which have appeared during the course of the Arcade project and this upward trend is expec ted to continue.
- The strengthening of the overall profile of the DOMC through the sharing of information with interested parties from industry, governmental and non-governmental environmental and health organisations, press and other media, university undergraduate and postgraduate students, young scientists, authorities and policy makers and other stakeholders. The dissemination of information is a priority of the DOMC and the activities undertaken as part of the Arcade project or in those in which the project was participant have demonstrated that this is an area which can have fruitful results.
- The profile of the DOMC among the scientific community has been enhanced by the three specialised workshops that were organised and through the International Conference on Chemistry for Health. The possibility for a repeat of the conference has been considered, since its scope differs somewhat from other related meetings.

(see also the attached report)

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