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Success story: Fréderic Vellieux

Introduction to the story

My journey in the academic world is a bit complicated. I started as a medical student in Angers (France) for the first two years of medical school. But I was attracted then to structural biology. For this reason I left France to embark on a 4-year Bachelor degree in Chemistry and Crystallography at Birkbeck (University of London), one of the Meccas of Structural Biology. After I did a Ph.D. in Protein Crystallography and postdoc at the State University of Groningen (the Netherlands). So I worked for 25 years at the Institut de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble, on projects dealing both with methodology and with protein structure determination and analysis. 

After 25 years in France I thought it was time to carry out my work from another perspective, and I was offered a position as the scientific manager of the “Centre of Molecular Structure” at the BIOCEV in Vestec (Central Bohemia). After 30 months I became a research scientist in the Medicinal Chemistry lab at the First Faculty of Medicine in the same workplace. What do I do now? Proteins and protein complexes (including those with nucleic acids) are the targets for structure-based design of molecules, with a view to develop novel drugs. There are hundreds of thousands of experimental 3D structures available in structural repositories, and an even higher number of fairly accurate 3D structures predicted using artificial intelligence (AlphaFold, RoseTTAFold). It has become possible now to harness this avalanche of 3D structural data, using state-of-the-art bioinformatics tools, for the development of new molecules (usually small molecules) or the modification of existing molecules. The aim is obviously to improve animal, principally human, health.

There is a bright future for scientists interested in the molecules of life, and who wish to “push the envelope”. The Czech Republic is one of the places where this is possible, with its political and economic stability.

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