Scientist explains discovery

By Michelle Bove

Correspondent

A senior scientist from Hoffman-La Roche Chemicals presented his research on drug discovery, involving organic synthesis, to students on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Romy Dominique made an appearance at the Science Complex to discuss a project that he has worked on over the last five years, where he uses “chemistry as a tool” to discover drugs to treat inflammatory diseases like arthritis.

“We innovate healthcare,” Dominique said, explaining Roche’s motto. The company also focuses on oncology, virology, metabolic disorders and the central nervous system.

“Roche’s personalized healthcare approach uses new molecular insights and molecular diagnostic tests to better tailor medicines and better manage diseases,” according to their website.

“We’ve needed to find the needle in the haystack,” Dominique said on the topic of cancer.

He explained to students that propelling cancer cells into a cancer death phase is “very difficult” so “there are a lot of ups and downs” at Roche. Dominique is involved in finding new and improved treatments for cancer patients.

There are a variety of ongoing projects at Roche, many of which Dominique is involved in. For instance, the GPR119 Project is “high interest for many other pharmaceutical companies,” said Dominique. “We are helping with Type 2 Diabetes … by lowered glucose levels.”

At Roche, “trial and error” occurs every single day, said Dominique. “In some cases, we’re not successful … but we do get promising results.” During the discoveries of new drugs, it is important “to know the drug to drug interaction” so that these new drugs will be helpful, as opposed to hurtful.

“New findings can require much more time to study,” Dominique said. “There is a lot of pressure to go fast.”

Between various pharmaceutical companies, there is competition in the discovery of new drugs.

“Sometimes what can be applied to one project cannot be applied to another,” Dominique added.

A pharmaceutical company can make millions if they successfully discover a useful drug that is new and desired on the market, but that’s not the biggest reward.
“It is a good feeling when you discover a new drug that can truly help patients,” Dominique said.

Students left impressed.

“I find the field of chemistry so interesting. It’s ever-changing and there are always new discoveries,” said Selina Iqbal, sophomore chemistry major. “Chemistry is the core of making new drugs in the pharmaceutical industry, and the fact that these molecules can literally save lives absolutely amazes me.”