WP2 Researchers

Recruited staff

 

Prof. Edwin Vedejs professional activities resulted in >230 highly cited research papers published in the leading ACS journals and prestigious awards received. His wide knowledge about innovations and innovative research is gained being more than 30 years (1971-2005) as a consultant for famous pharmaceutical companies (UpJohn, Pharmacia and Pfizer). Recruitment of Prof. E. Vedejs will strengthen LIOS capacities in drug discovery (>30 new molecular entities) and innovative research in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies.

Modern innovative research in drug design and development is characterized with the highest qualities of knowledge transfer and interconnections between academic research, process development and patent and academic publications. Success in the sector of knowledge transfer is based on deepest understanding of these subjects and ability to implement them.

 

Dr. Dmitrijs Chernyak has a 13 year experience of research in the field of organic synthesis; metalloorganic chemistry and process chemistry, the last is being the most important, but under-developed direction in LIOS and Baltic region. He has started his scientific career in LIOS (under the supervision of Dr. P. Trapencieris), and then he moved to USA, where he earned PhD in organic chemistry and synthesis at University of Chicago, IL with Professor Vladimir Gevorgyan. After that he moved to MI North-western University (Evanston, IL, USA; with Professor Karl A. Scheidt) to deepen experience in the modern organic and bioorganic chemistry. His expertise is related to the development of a route towards the total synthesis of glycoside natural product secaloside A. Dr. Chernyak is an author of 10 articles in peer reviewed journals (J. Am.Chem. Soc.,  Adv. Synth. Catal., Org. Letters).

The recruitment of Dr. D. Chernyak will strengthen the ties between all aspects of synthetic chemistry and process chemistry research capacities in LIOS, especially related to modern drug development. In addition, his experience will be very valuable for the modern impact to the Department of Technology Development in LIOS and Biopharmaceutical Research Centre as a local centre of competence in collaboration with Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, University of Latvia and Riga Technical University. Recruitment of D. Chernyak will strengthen modern process research capacities in LIOS.

 

With over 10 years of research experience, Dr. Inese Smukste’s expertise spans the areas of medicinal chemistry and pre-clinical development. In her current role as a Study Director, Inese directs ADME studies and leads the bioanalytical group and drug transporter and metabolism group. Previously, Inese worked in a department of Preclinical Development and Clinical Pharmacology of a biotechnology company focused on oncology drug development. She also was part of a development team leading medicinal chemistry and preclinical development efforts of a biotechnology company focused on anti-inflammatory drug development. Inese was a research scientist and lecturer at University of Columbia, New York, NY and a postdoctoral associate at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA. She studied molecular pathways involved in oncogene induced cancer drug resistance and served as medicinal chemistry expert in Professor Brent Stockwell group supporting multiple research projects.

She has started his scientific career in LIOS (under the supervision of Dr. L. Ignatovitch), and then she moved to USA, where she earned PhD in organic chemistry from University of Cincinnati, OH, where she studied host-guest chemistry and functional groups involved in molecular recognition of proteins. Inese Smukste has authored and co-authored 9 peer-reviewed articles (J.Org.Chem., Tetrahedron, Cancer Cell, Nature) and book chapters one patent application and eight provisional patent applications.


The recruitment of Dr. I. Smukste will strengthen the multidisciplinary research capacities in LIOS, especially related to preclinical drug development. In addition, her experience will be very valuable for the establishment of Biopharmaceutical Research Centre as a local centre of competence in collaboration with Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, University of Latvia and Riga Technical University. Recruitment of I. Smukste is expected to strengthen ADME-related research capacities in LIOS.

  

With over 25 years of research experience, Dr. Aleksandrs Gutcait’s expertise spans the areas of medicinal chemistry and Computer-aided drug discovery and development, proteins modulators de-novo design, molecular modeling and  MD simulations, directed protein degradation, Botulinum toxin structure, function, design, GPCR modeling. Most of the projects after year 2001 were conducted for and together with Merz Pharma (Frankfurt, Germany). He has started his scientific career in Riga Technical University on design and synthesis of new luminophores for technical and medicinal usage, active polymeric light conductors for medicine and nuclear physics research, new luminescence labels for oligonucleotide synthesis and luminescent probes for biological membranes investigation. Then he did his posdoctoral research at National Taiwan University, College of Medicine, School of Pharmacy, working on asymmetric synthesis, up-scaling development of new effective a1-adrenoreceptors antagoniststs with molecular modeling study. His further postdoctoral research at Uppsalla University, Department of Pharmacology included study and development of new chemometrics methods for drug discovery and protein design.

The recruitment of Dr. A. Gutcait will strengthen the multidisciplinary research capacities in LIOS, especially related to molecular modeling and drug design.

 

Dr. Rosario Recacha has more than 20 years of experience in the field of X-ray crystallography of peptides and proteins. She obtained her PhD in Chemical Sciences from Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Barcelona, Spain), where she worked on structural studies of insulin complexes. Later she moved to University of Alabama at Birmingham (USA) to work as a postdoctoral fellow in the group of Dr. Debasish Chattopadhyay on drug discovery projects in collaboration with the company Johnson & Jonhson. After that she got a postdoctoral fellow position at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Hamburg, Germany) under the supervision of Dr. Ehmke Pohl, and worked on studies of DNA-binding domains. Then she was a senior postdoctoral fellow at Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), and worked in the field of GTPases. After that she obtained a Research Associate position at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (Cambridge, England) and studied the structure of the hepatocyte growth factor and tyrosine kinase receptor. Recently she was a “Titulado Superior de Actividades Tecnicas y Profesionales” at the Spanish National Centre for Biotechnology (Madrid, Spain)  and studied proteins involved in cell-cell interactions. Dr. R. Recacha has 11 publications in peer-reviewed journals including Structure, J. Med. Chem., J. Am. Chem. Soc. and Acta Cryst. D.
The recruitment of Dr. R. Recacha will increase LIOS research capacity in the field of structure-based drug discovery. She will establish a new research direction at the institute - protein X-ray crystallography, the major method used for structure determination of protein - small molecule complexes. It is foreseen that she will collaborate extensively with the molecular modeling, biomolecular NMR and medicinal chemistry groups and thus be part of an interdisciplinary research team at LIOS that focuses on modern drug design

Henrik Biverstål, PhD has more than 10 years of experience in biophysics and biochemistry of proteins. He received his PhD in Biophysics from Stockholm University, where his thesis focused on peptide-membrane interactions (under the supervision of professor Lena Mäler). After that he moved to Swedish University of Agriculture as a postdoctoral fellow at professor Torleif Härds lab. There he worked with structural biology and chemical engineering of the Aβ peptide. After two years in Uppsala Dr. H. Biverstål moved to Karolinska Institutet for a postdoctoral fellowship in professor Jan Johanssons lab.  There he continued working with the Aβ peptide, with biophysical and biochemical characterization of the BRICHOS domain, a possible drug target against Alzheimer’s´ disease. For over two years he worked in a translational research environment in collaboration with electro-physiologists, bioorganic chemists, x-ray crystallographers etc.  Dr. H. Biverstål has 10 publications in peer-reviewed journals including Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., J. Biol. Chem., Biophys. J. and Eur. J. Biochem.
The recruitment of Dr. H. Biverstål will increase LIOS research capacity in the field of protein NMR spectroscopy for drug discovery applications, which is in line with a recent acquisition of a new 800 MHz NMR spectrometer for biomolecular studies. It is also expected that he will bring new competence to the institute in the field of peptide based drug design and Alzheimer's disease.

Kalvis Brangulis, PhD in Biology, subfield molecular biology.  
He received his PhD in University of Latvia in April 2014 where he worked on structural studies of Lyme disease agent B. burgdorferi outer surface proteins related with the pathogenesis of Lyme disease. While working at the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre (BMC) in a few years he already solved eight different crystal structures by using X-ray crystallography and authored 4 peer-reviewed articles (FEBS J., Acta cryst. D, Ticks and Tick Borne Dis.).
The recruitment of Dr. K. Brangulis will increase LIOS research capacity in the field of structure-based drug discovery by applying protein X-ray crystallography. In collaboration with biomolecular NMR group from LIOS and structural biology group from BMC it is also expected that he will try to identify ligands/receptors for the outer surface proteins of B. burgdorferi and bring new competence for treatment of Lyme disease.

Ansis Maleckis, PhD. He received his PhD in Chemistry (June 2014), in University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI under the supervision of professor Melanie S. Sanford. Ansis Maleckis was selected as appropriate candidate based on his experience in the field of novel NMR methods for protein-ligand interaction (Australian National University) and work towards development of novel trifluoromethylation methods (Michigan University). This expertise is required for the scientific project within the InnovaBalt program. The activities of the recruited post-doc Ansis Maleckis will be related to the use of newly installed 800 MHz equipment to develop novel methods for investigation of protein-ligand interaction as a part of drug discovery process. 

Zigmantas Toleikis is a biochemist who has received his master of biochemistry at University of Vilnius and a PhD at University of Copenhagen. He has been studying protein binding with different inhibitors at high pressure, which can provide volumetric properties of this process, leading to a better understanding of the interaction mechanism. During PhD studies he has analyzed the molecular details of the leptin receptor structure and interaction with leptin at ambient and high pressure using NMR spectroscopy.

Oksana Petrichenko, PhD. She received her PhD in Chemistry at March of 2014. The PhD was elaborated the Department of Physics of University of Latvia. Her scientific interests are related with soft matter (materials), such as biocompatible magnetic fluids and preparation, functionalization and investigation of magnetic nanoparticles, using chemical and physical methods. Oksana Petrichenko was selected as appropriate candidate for a postdoctoral researcher with experience on the field of magnetic nanoparticles such as preparation, modification, application of different methods for characterization of magnetic liposomes by optical microscopy and dynamic light scattering methods. Her recruitment will substantially improve LIOS research capability in the area of investigation of nanoparticles.

Dr. Pawan Kumar Gupta received his PhD in Pharmacoinformatics (August 2012) from National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, S.A.S. Nagar, India under the supervision of Professor Prabha Garg. His PhD studies were focused on identification of novel HIV-1 integrase inhibitors using various computational techniques. He is proficient in different computational techniques used for ligand and structure based drug design such as QSAR modeling, pharmacophore mapping, virtual screening, docking studies, toxicities and ADME predictions of small molecules, 2D and 3D similarity searching, quantum mechanical calculations. He is experienced with de novo drug design, homology modeling and molecular dynamics simulations.   

He was an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Computational Sciences, Central University of Punjab (India) for more than a year with teaching experience in Basic of Drug Action and Discovery, Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Medicinal Chemistry and Biostatistics and supervising drug discovery projects.

With over 10 years of research experience, Dr. A.Versilovskis’s expertise spans the areas of food chemistry, analytical chemistry, synthesis of xenobiotics metabolites etc. In his current role as a Scientific/Technical Project Officer at Institute of Reference Materials and Measurements (Joint Research Centre of the European Commission), Aleksandrs directs development of reference materials of mycotoxins. Previously, Aleksandrs worked in a Veterinary and Agrochemical Research Centre Unit of Toxins and Natural Compounds (Belgium) where he was focused on chemical and biochemical (enzyme assisted) synthesis of plant and animal metabolites of mycotoxins, animal metabolism of mycotoxins (in vivo & in vitro), as well as on development and validation of analytical methods for determination of those in food/feed, animal organs and body fluids. He also was part of a team which is deeply involved in mycotoxin research at Ghent University Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Belgium) where he studied pharmacy. Aleksandrs was also leading scientist, head of HPLC division and head of mycotoxins investigation division at Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment - "BIOR“. He has started his scientific career in LIOS under the supervision of Prof. Duburs and Dr. Krauze where he was involved in synthesis of some new substances which are potential candidates for heart diseases treatment amd then he moved to Belgium. Dr. Versilovskis is an author of 10 articles in peer reviewed journals (J. Chromatogr., J. Ind.Microbiol., Biotech.)
It is foreseen to update the complicated process of discovery and development of novel medicines. This process involves studies of metabolism, including separation, purification, identification of metabolites in minor quantities, synthesis of eventual metabolites. It is necessary to recruit such specialist, especially in the fields of complicated compounds, natural products and their analogues.

Dr. Laura Bekere has a 15 year expertise in organic chemistry. She has started his scientific career in LIOS (under the supervision of Dr. Krauze). She earned PhD in organic chemistry in University of Latvia. Then, she moved to France (Centre Interdisciplinaire de Nanoscience de Marseille, CNRS, Prof. V. Khodorkovsky) for postdoctoral studies. Her expertise is nanotechnology and applied chemistry in scientific and industrial projects. New skills and new techniques (femto- and nanosecond lasers, fluorescence and two-photon absorption spectroscopy) were lerned.
Recently, Laura Beķere has authored and co-authored peer-reviewed articles (Tetrahedron, Beilstein Journal Org. Chem., Appl. Surface Science).
The recruitment of Dr. L. Bekere will strengthen the multidisciplinary research capacities in LIOS, especially related to the nanotechnology, hybrid materials and theragnostics (novel therapy combined with diagnostics), including novel types of vital fluorescent probes with Forster resonance energy transfer. Her experience will be very valuable for the characterization of the new products in collaboration with Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, University of Latvia and Riga Technical University.

Miguel Ángel Ortega Soret was born in Irun, The Basque Country, Northern Spain. He got his degree in Pharmacy from the University of Navarra in Pamplona (Spain), from where he also got a MSc in Research and Development of Drugs, and his Doctorate degree. His doctoral thesis dealt with the synthesis of quinoxaline 1,4-di-N-oxides with cytostatic activity on hypoxic fractions of solid tumours (under the supervision of Dr. Antonio Monge Vega). After a 3-year contract as a Research Collaborator in Pamplona, he moved to the School of Pharmacy of the University of London (UK) funded by a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship for two years. There he worked in the synthesis of selective Met kinase inhibitors as potential anticancer agents under the direction of Prof. David E. Thurston. During this time, he also participated in the design of a predictive model of the Met kinase ATP-binding site. The next step in his career took him to the Institute for Research in Biomedicine of Barcelona to work in the synthesis of analogues of a natural cyclodepsipeptide using both solution and solid phase synthetic techniques. Afterwards, he moved to Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg (Sweden) for the last stage of the EC-funded Network “Structural effects arising from major groove DNA recognition by metallo-supramolecular cylinders” (MARCY). This project was part of the COST Action D20: Metal compounds in the treatment of cancer and viral diseases. He moved then from Sweden to the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) in Madrid, where he worked over five years as a Staff Scientist of the Experimental Therapeutics Programme in the synthesis of protein kinase inhibitors as potential anticancer agents for various projects. After that, he moved back to Sweden, this time to the University of Gothenburg where he was solely responsible for the synthesis of bis-epoxides in the project “Prevention of outbreaks of allergic contact dermatitis in work with epoxy resins and other epoxides”. So far, he has had 15 articles published and 3 patents filed.
Dr. M.A. Ortega has been recruited by LIOS to work under the direction of Prof. Ivars Kalviņš in the design and synthesis of substrate-based inhibitors of trimethyllysine hydroxylase which is the first enzyme involved in the carnitine biosynthesis pathway.

Edgars Liepins, PhD is an experienced researcher holding a PhD in Pharmaceutical Pharmacology (Pharmacy) for more than 10 years. He has strong expertise in the techniques of biochemistry, molecular biology, heart physiology and molecular imaging in vivo and preclinical drug discovery. E. Liepins has been involved in drug target search for treatment of the cardiometabolic disorders, which resulted in a set of patents and publications related to novel compounds for treatment cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. He has held principal investigator and project head posts in both basic science and applied science projects for the drug discovery.
E. Liepins is an author of more than 50 articles in peer reviewed journals and inventor in 12 patents.  In parallel to scientific work, E. Liepins is a lecturer in the University of Latvia.  

The recruitment of Dr. E Liepins will increase the LIOS research capacity and experience in new directions of preclinical drug discovery, in vivo pharmacology and imaging techniques. In the InnovaBalt project E. Liepinsh will coordinate the use of InSyTe FLECT/CT 360º system – fluorescence tomography/x-ray computed tomography system to study true anatomical displacement of small animals and accurately measure near infrared fluorophore concentrations throughout the region of interest in vivo.

Victoria Ryabova, PhD. She started as a chemist in the LIOS in the laboratory of Organometallic chemistry, headed by Prof. E. Lukevics, gathering the experience in the synthesis of silicon organic compounds. She earned her PhD in electrochemical synthesis of organometallic compounds, and metallocomplexes from the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany under the supervision of Prof. W.Schaefer. As a PostDoc she was active in electroanalytical chemistry working on amperometric biosensors (Prof. W. Schuhmann, Bochum University, Germany), in electrochemistry in microreactors (Prof. S.Haswell, Hull University, UK), worked on direct Pd-catalyzed C-H bond activation (Prof. V.Gevorgyan, University of Illinois, Chicago, USA), and applications of Grignard reagents (Prof. P.Knochel, University of Munich).

As the recruit of InnovaBalt project V. Ryabova will apply her expertise for the synthesis of new biologically valuable organic compounds, she will work on the introduction of silicon(germanium) containing groups into the known biologically active compounds to improve their pharmacokinetic properties, and also on the application of electrochemistry for both synthesis as “green method”, and for analysis of molecules of interest for their oxidative stability.

Dr. D. Antipova is recruited by InnovaBalt project to finalize the establishment of the newly built Pharmacy Research Centre as the local centre of competence in preclinical drug discovery and development. In the new facilities the Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Pharmacology and the Group of Experimental Chemotherapy will to introduce the most up to date principles of good preclinical research practices. Toxicology and ADME studies are expected to complement pharmacological investigations and speed up the drug discovery process. Early testing of toxic properties and ADME profile of the lead compound can focus research plans, especially in the applied research projects.

Dr.Antipova started as a biochemist in the LIOS in the laboratory of Membrane active compounds and β-diketones. She earned her PhD in the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague. Dr. Antipova has been working in the pharmaceutical industry related field for last 15 years. Her profession experience includes establishment, implementation, maintenance and improvement of the laboratory quality system (ISO 17025, GMP).

The recruitment of Dr. D.Antipova is expected to drive the certification of the ADME/TOX related experimental methods by the national regulatory authorities. This is expected to focus innovative drug discovery and increase the collaboration of LIOS and industrial partners in early stages of drug development.

Dr. Janis Veliks received his BSc and MSc in Riga Technical University, Latvia. In October 2010, he joined the group of Prof. Jay S. Siegel at the University of Zurich, Switzerland and completed his PhD degree in March 2014. He worked in the area of supramolecular chemistry, coordination polymers and topologically complex molecules. In September 2014, he joined the Gouverneur group to work on transition metal-catalyzed hydrofluorination and trifluoroethylation. His experience and knowledge will significantly increase research capacity of LIOS in the areas of coordination chemistry, fluorine chemistry and transition metal catalysis.

Laura Kovalenko, PhD. Her scientific life was always connected with the applied organic synthesis. She has synthesized compounds which were thought to serve as new drugs/diagnostics, she also spent several years synthesizing the new materials for LCDs. Besides synthetic expertise, she possesses the strong knowledge about the chemistry of polymers, physical chemistry, biochemistry and analytics.
After her graduation from the Latvian University, she worked on the synthesis of new biologically active nucleobase derivatives under the guidance of Professor R.Zhuk at the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis in Riga (LIOS). She obtained her PhD from Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany in the field of liquid crystals under the supervision of Prof.Dr.Weissflog in the frames of multidisciplinary INCELL project led by “Philips” and “Merck”, “Synthesis of novel polymeric liquid crystals”. As PostDoc she worked on a self-guided Exist project (mentor Professor K.-H. van Pee) at the Technical University of Dresden (Germany) focusing on the chemical synthesis and characterization of novel fluorescent active polymeric marker molecules for single-molecule analysis in the medical sciences.
With her knowledge and experience in both synthetic organic chemistry, and physical chemistry, she will increase the capacity of LIOS in the area of design and synthesis of new valuable molecules.