R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Saúde

Unidade de I&D

Research Institute for Medicines and Pharmaceutical Sciences [HESC-LVT-Lisboa-4013] visitada em 23/04/2008

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
This unit is ambitiously aimed at covering almost all steps of the (non-clinical) drug discovery process. It has recently been started based upon existing earlier units and contains some excellent research. It became clear from the site visit that group leaders within the Unit are making considerable efforts to develop coherence and foster collaborations within a Unit containing heterogeneous research groups. While these aims have not yet been achieved, the Unit is heading in the right direction. This development of coherence and stronger internal collaborations will require a refocusing of some groups. The specific strength in CNS diseases will likely provide a useful focus point for the overall Unit.

While being interested in the drug discovery process as a whole, the Unit should not forget that it is not a miniature pharmaceutical company but rather an academic unit aimed to discover important principles.

With regard to the development of human resources, we consider it as a specific strength of this Unit that its Ph.D. students do not only come from pharmacy but almost half of them from other scientific backgrounds speaking for the attractiveness of the Unit. The students of this Unit are generally enthusiastic about their training, although they expressed a clear desire for more structured opportunities for interaction.

We grade the overall units as a 4, but if they succeed in strengthening coherence they have a clear chance to develop into a Unit with a 5 rating.

Concluding, overall evaluation of the Unit as a whole very good but if the Unit succeeds in strengthening coherence there is a clear chance to develop into a unit with an excellent unit as applies already to the group on Molecular and cellular biology.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Chemical Biology and Toxicology [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-4013-126]
This large group has published a number of interesting findings in good journals but relative to the size of this group there is clear room for improvement. The group pursues very heterogeneous goals (oncology & inflammation, infectious disease, neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration) and the description of its future aims is somewhat vague. The group would clearly benefit from a stronger focus, and we strongly recommend that the area of neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration receives key consideration in the effort to focus. This recommendation is based upon the strong groups of Rodrigues and Brites within the Unit as obvious possible collaboration partners.
Medicinal Chemistry [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-4013-130]
This group is very large and heterogeneous. It has interests in neurodegeneration, oncology & inflammation and infectious diseases. As compared to other medicinal chemistry groups (and also various other groups) this panel has seen, this group is characterized by the fact that a large number of scientific staff contributes significantly to the scientific output. The research is timely and well structured, and the results achieved are very relevant. Some of the publications appear in journals with above average impact. However, this group would also benefit from more focus and better interaction with other groups within the unit. Particularly, their work related to neurodegeneration makes them a good candidate for collaboration with the groups of Rodrigues, Brites and Castro.
Metabolism and Genetics [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-4013-127]
This group studies rare metabolic diseases, and basing on this knowledge is branching out into more frequent metabolic diseases. Their research is primary driven by their function as a national references laboratory. Starting from the diagnostic data generated in patient care, they have started mechanistic studies into the pathology of some of these diseases. Some of this work is related to mitochondrial function, which provides nice links to the Rodrigues group. The group is well linked to international groups working on similar diseases. Their research might be further strengthened if the clinical side, until now mostly providing patient samples, would develop a research program into the same diseases, as this would allow more specific analysis of relationships between biochemical parameters and specific phenotypes. Their work regularly gets published in good journals.
Molecular and Cell Biology of Eukaryotic Systems [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-4013-1175]
This group has a clear focus on the biology of cell death and on neurodegeneration. A key discovery of this group has been the finding that specific bile acids play a unique role in modulating the apoptotic threshold. The group has made excellent contributions to their field of research and is regularly publishing in premier journals. Part of the strength of this group comes from their long-standing collaboration with colleagues in Minnesota, in which this group plays a clearly identifiable key role as evidenced by the fact that most papers resulting from this collaboration have first and/or last authors from Lisbon. Overall this is the scientifically strongest individual group this panel has seen in all four Units which have been visited during this round. Within the Unit this group should be a valuable collaboration partner, with particularly close ties to the Brites group.

Nanomedicine and Drug Delivery Systems [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-4013-124]
This group focuses on oral, transdermal and pulmonary drug delivery. It is a very relevant research field, and the group is making original contributions, some of which are being protected by patent applications. However, this has resulted in few publications in major journals. Given the poor penetration of nanoparticles, their approaches unfortunately are unlikely to be applicable to the interests of various other groups within the Unit with regard to CNS diseases. However, their important work in this area will be useful for many other therapeutic areas including several this Unit is interested in. The research output of the group appears to be largely carried by a small fraction of its senior scientists. Getting the other scientists to be more involved may help to achieve the ambitious goals of this group.
Neuron Glia Biology in Health and Disease [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-4013-128]
This group is interested in both neuron/glia biology and the liver. It studies neurological dysfunction using primary nerve cell cultures and their response to a host of induced pathological conditions including exposure to inflammatory factors such as endotoxins and cytokines. Some emphasis is placed on liver dysfunction and its role in causing brain damage. Their research is organized in a set of well-defined and related topics. There are a good number of publications in rather high impact journals. The group has a good international orientation as witnessed by the number of collaborations with foreign groups and the active participation in organizing international conferences.
Pharmacological Sciences [RG-HESC-LVT-Lisboa-4013-125]
This group actually consists of three rather loosely related groups. One part is devoted to classical pharmacology, particularly related to the cardiovascular system. In collaboration with the William Harvey Institute in London (UK), this part of the group is regularly publishing high impact papers. A second part of the group is devoted to pharmacokinetic studies including modelling. The third part is related to pharmacoepidemiology. This part of the group also is represented in various international committees including advisory boards to the EMEA. With regard to the overall research output of the Lima group it is noteworthy that out of 16 senior staff, 5 have 0 publications within the reporting 4 year period, 4 have only 1 publication and 3 have only 2 publications. This calls into question the overall ability of the group to carry out their ambitious future research plans. Their impressive output with regard to Ph.D. and M.Sc. theses only partly compensates for the less impressive publications output. For a group with such heterogeneity, it would usually be recommended to get better focus. However, in this case all three elements are of clear benefit to the overall unit. Therefore, the unit should consider whether it may benefit from splitting this large and very heterogeneous group into three small groups, each of which should be of sufficient strength to exist in its own right.