Prof. Koen Augustyns

Koen Augustyns (°13/09/1965) obtained his Master and PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the KU Leuven, Belgium in 1988 and 1992 respectively. After postdoctoral stays at the University of Antwerp, Belgium and the University of Tübingen, Germany he was appointed as Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Antwerp, Belgium in 1997. His research expertise is in the fields of medicinal chemistry, organic chemistry and organic synthesis. His research in medicinal chemistry is mostly focused on the design and development of novel hit and lead compounds with potential therapeutic applications in the fields of cell death, inflammation and infectious diseases. Recently he became also active in the field of activity-based probes and bioorthogonal chemistry and their applications in bioimaging. He is an experienced teacher in medicinal chemistry and has guided numerous master and PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. He coordinated many national and international research collaborations and as Past President of the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry he has access to a large international network. As Chair of the department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences he is experienced in management of people, research and education.

Prof. Pieter Van Der Veken

Prof. Hans De Winter

Hans De Winter holds a Pharmacy degree and Ph.D. from the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium. Hans De Winter was appointed in 2013 as a professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Antwerp after a long career in industry, first 10 years as a senior scientist at Johnson & Johnson in Beerse, Belgium, and subsequently 10 years as co-founder and CSO of Silicos NV. He completed post-doctoral stays at the Victorian College of Pharmacy (Australia) and the Rega Institute in Leuven before starting his career as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry. Prof. Hans De Winter is chairman of the Flemish computational chemistry division of the European Association of Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS) since 2015. He teaches organic chemistry to 1st year bachelor students in pharmaceutical sciences, and a course on computational drug design to 1ste year master students in biochemistry. Current research activities include:-

1.     Binding pocket identification using enhanced sampling molecular dynamics (MD). Enhanced sampling dynamics, such as Gaussian accelerated MD, are capable to accelerate the sampling space and therefore often able to predict the binding spots of compounds on their protein targets.

2.     Structure-based ligand design free energy perturbation dynamics or umbrella sampling. These techniques are applied in our group to predict the binding affinity of compounds towards their target protein.

3.     Virtual screening of large compound database with molecular docking or pharmacophore searching.

4.     Building QSAR models with advanced machine learning applications.

Prof. Michaela Prothiwa

Michaela Prothiwa was appointed in 2023 as tenure track research professor in the field of chemical biology. She received her master degree in pharmaceutical sciences form LMU Munich and completed her master thesis at the Harvard University with Prof. Alan Saghatelian. Afterwards she obtained a PhD in the lab of Prof. Thomas Böttcher at the University Konstanz. Her graduate work focused on the development of chemical biology tools to study virulence-related enzymes of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia species. Subsequently, she did her postdoctoral work as a DFG postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Prof. Steven Verhelst at KU Leuven. Her research in the Verhelst lab focused on chemical probes for imaging of the paracaspase MALT1. In addition, she has strong passion for science communication, mentorship and education.

Michaela Prothiwa’s research team uses a combination of chemical and biological strategies to uncover diseases-relevant interactions between microbes and the immune system. Specifically, they combine organic chemistry, natural product identification, proteomics, and biological approaches. By unravelling virulence-determinants and identifying novel anti-virulence targets, the knowledge gained from her group will accelerate the development of novel anti-virulence drugs.

Current research activities include:

1.      Chemical tools for immune-modulatory proteases

Bacteria produce numerous proteases as virulence factors. The team around Michaela Prothiwa pioneers the development of novel chemical tools, such as activity-based probes (ABPs) or substrate probes, to study bacterial proteases and explore their potential as therapeutic target.

2.      Uncovering immune-microbe interactions

Prothiwa’s team is interested in molecular interactions during immune evasion and persistence. Specifically, they aim to uncover yet unknown pathogenic mechanisms by applying a combination of activity-based protein profiling, proteomics and natural product research.

3.      Imaging of protease activity during infection

Another research focus is the development of highly specific chemical probes for detection of protease activity in complex biological samples. Probes will be applied to directly map protease activity during infection in animal models and patient samples.