Dynamic life scientist engaged in developing exciting new drug discovery tools. Responsible for the antibody enabled structure based drug discovery. Identify and validate new drug targets (protein-protein interactions). Management of research projects and research teams. Define and implement the nanobodies selection strategies. Skills : Molecular & Structural Biology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Protein Purification & Biophysical Characterization, Antibody selection (nanobodies), Antibody enable structure-based drug discovery, Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Project Development & Management, Student Mentoring.
Senior scientist Fellow
Since September 2011
After establishing a structure based drug discovery platform within the laboratory of Pr J. Steyaert, I am now developing cutting-edge techniques for X-ray crystallography and drug design using antibodies (nanobodies). The laboratory exploits a particular class of antibodies found in camelidae that offers important perspectives for protein crystallization. We are developing molecular tools to stabilize elusive conformation of proteins such as the prion protein and transient protein-protein interactions (PPIs). One of my PhD students used nanobodies to study the structural dynamics of the Prion protein (PrPC). In this context, I initiated contacts with different partners, allowing us to develop a new system for expressing PrPC from different species (Abskharon RN, et al. 2012), thus facilitating structural studies. Human PrPC produced with our system was found to be a strong inhibitor of human prion propagation (Yuan, et al. 2013) and could be used to inhibit PrPSc propagation. In addition, we developed a new method for the crystallization of prion/antibody Complexes (Abskharon RN, et al. 2010) (Abskharon RN, et al. 2011). This strategy was successful to crystallize a PrPC/nanobody complex, which revealed for the first time a new structural arrangement (Abskharon RN, et al. 2014). Finally, I have developed a new method to select Nanobodies that are specific for a transient protein complex. This method is now patented and we are exploiting Nanobodies for structure-based drug discovery applications.
Senior Postdoctoral Fellow
September 2009 --- September 2011
After my experience in industry, I seized the opportunity to return to academia to lead a research team engaged in structure-based drug discovery in collaboration with the industrial partner Galapagos NV, a Belgian biotech company specialized in the field of drug design. I joined the Department of Structural Biology Department of VUB/VIB under the direction of Pr J. Steyaert. In this project, I supervised and managed a research team of one post-doctoral fellow and a laboratory technician. Due to industrial property concerns and pending patents, the target names cannot be communicated here. In parallel to this work, I initiated a collaboration between our team and Dr Baulard’s team (Pasteur Institute of Lille, France), and Pr Deprez’s team (University of Lille2, France). They were the first to demonstrate that the sensitivity of M. tuberculosis to important antibiotics could be reprogrammed using small synthetic compounds, which inhibit the key bacterial transcriptional regulator EthR. Together, we developed structure-based and fragment based drug discovery approaches, which led to the identification of highly potent EthR inhibitors that are now exploited under licence by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Bioversys, in collaboration with the TB-Alliance.
July 2007 --- September 2009
Postdoctoral research staff member, structural biology, structure/function relationship, hts protein crystallisation, drug discovery, protein biochemistry.
October 2004 --- March 2007
Post doctoral fellow, structural biology, cloning, protein expression and purification, crystallisation screening, protein crystallography, data collection, data processing xds, coot, ccp4.
Analytical thinkingCollaborationCommunicativeCreative thinkingCuriosityInnovative thinkingProblem solvingResiliencyStrategic thinking
PhD in Molecular biology from Université libre de Bruxelles in 2004
Master’s Degree in Chemistry from Université libre de Bruxelles in 1998
Erasmus in Chemistry from King's College London in 1997