Peter Grootenhuis

Nauta Chair 2006



From June 19th until June 23rd, prof. Peter Grootenhuis held the Nauta Chair at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Grootenhuis held a well-attended lectures series entitled "Computational Concepts, Strategy and Methods in Drug Discovery" in which he discussed many different aspects important in drug discovery, with an eye to their practical use in pharmaceutical industry. About 40 participants from Amsterdam, Leiden and beyond took this opportunity to learn from this extra-ordinary professor.

In 2001 the Nauta Chair has been established by the Prof. W. Th. Nauta Foundation, in the honour of prof. Wijbe Th. Nauta (1913 - 1986). Every two years, a well-known researcher is invited to hold the Nauta Chair and give lectures on new developments in his or her research area. In addition to the lectures series, the appointed Nauta-professor is invited to hold the Nauta lecture. Prof Peter Grootenhuis was the fourth Nauta-professor. He graduated in Chemistry at the University of Utrecht and received his PhD-degree from Prof. D. Reinhoudt, University of Twente in 1987, followed by . a 2 years post-doc with Prof. Kollman at the University of California at San Francisco. He was subsequently employed by Organon, Combichem, Dupont, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Deltagen. He is currently Senior Director 'Discovery Chemistry' at Vertex Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, USA. He has published over 100 scientific papers and is co-inventor of 20 patents. Amongst others, he received the Gold Medal of the Royal Dutch Chemical Society. Since June 2005, Grootenhuis also holds the extraordinary chair "virtual screening and design" at the Vrije Universiteit.

Based on his wealth of experience in both academia and pharmaceutical industry, Grootenhuis discussed many (computational) concepts in drug design in light of their applicability and use in industry. Using many real-life examples, Grootenhuis demonstrated the difficulties and pitfalls in computational chemistry. By holding quizzes to predict binding affinities, or to select drugs from a larger set of drug-like compounds he interactively involved the audience in a humorous and relaxed way. As an example of where statistical methods may lead you, he showed a near to perfect correlation between the efficacy of drugs and the length of their names. The lecture "How to be effective as (computational) scientist in pharma" was an eye-opener to many participants and much appreciated. The lecture series, combined with the Nauta-lecture, entitled "Discovery of CFTR Modulators - Towards A Treatment for Cystic Fibrosis" turned the week of the Nauta-chair into a very succesful experience.