13 February 2018

Learning from other disciplines – visit of Novartis’ PhysChem Lab


When it comes to the determination of physicochemical properties one can learn a lot from other scientific disciplines.

by Carina Schönsee (ESR9)

After a really interesting talk on “Physico-Chemical Properties and Their Application in Drug Discovery” at ETH Zürich in January, I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the Physicochemical Property Lab of Novartis in Basel, Switzerland last Friday.

For the pharmaceutical industry physicochemical properties are already relevant in early drug discovery. Important properties regularly determined for drug candidate compounds are for example ionizability, lipophilicity and solubility. All those properties are also of relevance when it comes to evaluate the environmental distribution of natural toxins.

While octanol in the pharmaceutical industry is a model for cell membrane lipid bilayers, in environmental chemistry it is often used in assessment of soil sorption as surrogate for organic carbon. Therefore, methodological approaches for the determination of octanol-water partitioning are a shared field of research in both disciplines.

It was of great value for my own project to discuss methods in particular with regards to practical issues and see the available instrumentation for automated and miniaturized high-throughput measurements of properties for a large number of compounds. The exchange definitely brought up many new ideas that I will implement in my analytical approach for application in natural toxin property determination.