Portrait of the month: Johan Wouters' research team

“Gaining knowledge about the 3D structure of protein targets to accelerate new drug discovery for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases”

From left to right: Prof Johan Wouters (Principal Investigator), Adrien Lesne (trainee), Sébastien Marx (PhD student), Quentin Thémans (PhD student), Laurie Bodart (PhD student), Danielle Ahn (trainee), Marie Haufroid (PhD student), Thomas Dal Maso (PhD student), Mégane Van Gysel (PhD student), Elise Pierson (PhD student), Kalina Mambourg (PhD student), Jordane Goffart (master student), Andrea Carletta (postdoc), Charlotte Beaujean (master student), Laurence Leherte (Principal Investigator), Amélie Derlet (master student) and Nikolay Tumanov (Service crystallographer)

Professor at the Department of Chemistry of the UNamur, Johan Wouters is also head of the Laboratory of Structural Biological Chemistry (CBS). His lab develops research projects falling within the field of medicinal chemistry and is an active member of the Namur Medicine & Drug Innovation Center (NAMEDIC).

The research activities of the CBS lab rely on a strong expertise in X-ray crystallography. Crystallography is a major tool for structure-based drug design, as it allows knowledge of the 3D structure of protein targets. In this context, researchers of the lab produce, purify, characterize and crystallize enzymes of pharmaceutical interest.

Furthermore, X-ray crystallography is also used to determine the structure of small molecules with therapeutic potential. Researchers are focused on the preparation and physicochemical characterization of pharmaceutical cocrystals. 

The main research areas of the CBS lab are cancer and infectious diseases. Nine projects are currently ongoing:

  • Thomas Dal Maso conducts a structural study of the membrane protein TMEM45A involved in chemoresistance of cancer cells. Read more
  • Sébastien Marx’s research aims to identify chemosensitizing compounds, which are able to inhibit the resistance to chemotherapy induced by the TMEM45A protein. Read more
  • Quentin Thémans works on the design and enzymatic evaluation of new inhibitors of the serine metabolic pathway as potential anticancer agents. His research focuses on phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH), an interesting therapeutic target. Read more
  • Mégane Van Gysel is involved in the development of inhibitors of lactate dehydrogenase B (LDHB) tetramerization to block oxidative lactate metabolism and signaling in cancer. Read more
  • Marie Haufroid and Elise Pierson both apply structural approaches to study Mycobacterium tuberculosis phosphoserine phosphatase in order to design original inhibitors. Read more
  • Laurie Bodart explores the use of cocrystals as potential alternatives to combine drugs. Her work includes cocrystallization, physico-chemical characterization and structural determination of cocrystallized active pharmaceutical ingredients. Read more
  • Andrea Carletta uses cocrystallization to develop improved organic photochromic and thermochromic solid-state materials. Read more
  • Kalina Mambourg is designing original compounds for targeting neurodegenerescence in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company.

Watch the video “Le CBS en 4 questions” produced by Elise Pierson & Mégane Van Gysel

Contact: johan.wouters@unamur.be