Angelo Pugliese is a highly experienced computational chemist with over 15 years' experience working across different organisations in the US and UK. In this blog, we look at Angelo’s career journey which started at the School of Pharmacy in Naples and has taken him across the Atlantic before settling in Scotland.
Angelo’s story starts in his home country of Italy where he studied Pharmacy at the University of Naples. He then moved to the UK to pursue his PhD in Computational Chemistry at the University of Nottingham. His research there involved the utilisation of molecular dynamics and high-performance computing to simulate the dynamics of Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA), an artificially synthesised polymer to DNA and RNA.
Angelo reflects: “The molecular modelling group at the University is world-renowned and I was keen to be able to carry out my PhD there and work alongside such a specialised and respected group.”
Upon completion of his PhD, Angelo then moved to the US to focus on his postdoctoral study as a Hormel Fellow at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute & Hormel Institute at the University of Minnesota. During his time there, Angelo spent the first two years working on computational structural biology and drug discovery projects. In his third year, he was involved in planning a new molecular modelling lab at the Hormel Institute in collaboration with IBM Rochester which also involved gaining experience of the newly installed Blue Gene/P supercomputer.
At the end of 2009, Angelo moved to Maryland as a ‘visiting scientist’ at the National Cancer Institute where he stayed for two years and developed machine learning models to predict the metabolism and metabolites of drug-like small molecules.
On completion of his work as a Research Fellow at the National Cancer Institute, Angelo then moved back across the Atlantic to Scotland where he took up a position in the Drug Discovery Unit at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow.
Angelo recalls: “I wanted to be back in Europe to be close to my family and home. I was hired to lead the computational chemistry effort at the Drug Discovery Unit at the Beatson Institute which was an exciting opportunity for me.”
Angelo worked on numerous projects and progressed from Staff Scientist and Project Lead in Computational Chemistry and Machine Learning to Team Lead responsible for the development and application of computational chemistry and artificial intelligence. His team was responsible for the computational drug discovery process including ligand and structure-based drug design, fragment-based drug design, library design, virtual screening, cheminformatics, simulations, data analysis and predictive and generative chemistry.
After nine and a half years at the Beatson Institute, Angelo decided it was time for a change and whilst looking for a new challenge, he came across an interesting new opportunity at BioAscent.
Angelo comments: “I was aware that BioAscent was fast becoming a leading integrated drug discovery CRO, and that they were keen to develop their computational chemistry service offering to their global customer base. The opportunity at BioAscent was exciting as I could see it would be a new challenge for me that would push me out of my comfort zone.”
Angelo joined BioAscent in January 2021 as Associate Director of In Silico Discovery and Data Analysis, with the clear remit to establish the in silico offering as part of the company’s integrated drug discovery service.
“Joining a new company in a pandemic was interesting as I didn’t get the opportunity to properly meet with many of the team. However, given my work is computer-based, it wasn’t too much of an issue and I was able to focus on getting the right systems and processes in place to provide the foundations to grow the in silico group.”
In Silico Discovery has become an integrated part of the BioAscent service offering and Angelo is now responsible for growing the group as demand increases, whilst working on numerous customer projects.
Angelo’s career has also seen him published in a number of journals, and he is an established presenter and speaks regularly at industry meetings and events.
“I was working from a blank canvas, and it took a while to understand BioAscent and how computational chemistry fits into the bigger picture, in part this was due to working from home during lockdown. However, the team has been nothing but supportive. Being part of a growing CRO is fast-paced and offers so many opportunities – there are many exciting developments in my area of specialism, not least in the field of artificial intelligence. Keeping ahead of the curve to support our customers will be key, as well as ensuring we continue to attract people with the right skills.”
BioAscent is a growing drug discovery contract research organisation based in Scotland. To find out more about why BioAscent is such a great place to work and to read more about current vacancies, click here.