As a kid I always enjoyed the simple logic of science and that I could use it to explain the world around me. The more I studied, the more I realized that there is still so much more we have to learn, and things aren’t always so simple. Now, I enjoy the puzzle – figuring out how all the pieces fit, trying to build a therapeutic one molecule at a time, navigating the minefield of efficacy, pharmacokinetics, and toxicity. I like to compare chemical synthesis to building a ship in a bottle, but you can’t see the ship or touch any of the pieces. You have to design your synthesis in such a way that you can toss the pieces together, shake it up, and at the end of the day have a functional ship.
As medicinal chemists, we have the added challenge of building a therapeutic that is effective against the disease we are targeting, can be absorbed in reasonable amounts by the body, and is safe enough that it won’t do more harm than good.
In 2017 I was diagnosed with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), which came as a surprise to me as it is a hereditable genetic disorder passed down from parent to child and my family has no history of kidney disease. I learned that in rare cases ADPKD is caused by a spontaneous mutation, meaning that any given individual has roughly a 0.005% to 0.01% chance of developing ADPKD with absolutely no family history of the disease. It’s still better odds than the Powerball, but I’m not sure it’s what people are referring to when they say someone has won the genetic lottery!
My journey with this disease has given me a greater appreciation for the work that we do here at GSK. Even though I may never get the opportunity to work on an ADPKD program, every disease we target has a profound effect on the patients who do suffer from it, and I try to attack each program as if it were me dependent on the outcome.
My faith is at the core for why I am committed to this industry. As a Christian, I believe that the foundation for my interactions with people should be putting others before myself and striving to help people. The small part I play in GSK’s mission to cure diseases and improve the quality of life for millions of people fits well within these tenets of my faith, and it’s what keeps me motivated each day I come into work.