Meet the team: Michael Kiczun

Published: 30 May 2024

In our latest Meet the Team blog, we hear from Michael Kiczun, Senior Scientist and Team Leader in the medicinal chemistry department at BioAscent, who shares his career journey spanning the last two decades.

At school, Michael's fascination with how things worked ignited his passion for science and chemistry, especially the captivating theatre of colourful and exothermic reactions. From the beautiful colours produced when heating metal salts over a bunsen burner to the day the teacher set his tie on fire, Michael was hooked!

Although there was a fleeting interest in computer science Michael decided that chemistry was the route that he wanted to take, and as the first member of his family to go to university, Michael chose to study chemistry at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

After graduating Michael considered a number of opportunities to do a PhD before deciding to enter the workplace with Zeneca Agrochemicals in the Process Technology Department.

‘Scaling reactions up to 5L and beyond was an eye opener and a great training ground for a future career in an industrial lab environment where there is an ever-present focus on safety. I was part of a team working to optimise the chemistry to provide high yielding robust routes whilst attempting to minimise costs and waste. On occasion we also had the opportunity to work with chemical engineers and colleagues in the plant to provide bulk quantities of experimental compounds for crop trials. Of course, the growing season waits for no man and the scale up often had to be delivered to tight deadlines.’

After two years, an exciting opportunity came along to join Organon, a rapidly expanding company with a strong reputation as a great place to work. Michael made the move and joined as a medicinal chemist, working on a variety of CNS projects. During his ten-year tenure, he worked across different phases of the discovery chemistry lifecycle, from hit identification to lead optimisation, contributing to projects that delivered several promising candidate molecules. However, it was a time when mergers and acquisitions were in vogue and the company was taken over twice within a few short years, first by Schering Plough and then by MSD, who closed the site in 2011.

Michael then moved to Oxford to join Prosidion, a biotech company and subsidiary of OSI Pharmaceuticals. Whilst there, Michael further broadened his experience working in the challenging area of designed multiple ligands for metabolic disease. As well as the exposure to new therapeutic areas Michael was also exposed to new ways of working including the concept of lean sigma in discovery research.

‘Craig Johnstone formerly of AstraZeneca and now COO at Evotec was the head of department and a big advocate of lean sigma in discovery research, although the idea was controversial for many scientists Craig was able to show us how simple concepts could be harnessed to make a significant impact on productivity in a discovery research environment.’

In 2012, Michael returned to Scotland and joined the Drug Discovery Unit at the University of Dundee to work on an immuno-oncology project with the company that was later to become IOmet Pharma. The project proved to be very successful and IOmet was later acquired by Merck in a deal worth up to $400M.

‘At the time it was big news and for me it was really nice to play a small part in something that made it so big’.

In total Michael spent over 7 years in Dundee gaining experience in various areas including FBDD, chemoinformatics, phenotypic drug discovery and screening library design where Michael led several projects to rebuild and expand various screening libraries in collaboration with organisations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Medicines for Malaria Venture.

‘It was a great experience exposing me to new technologies, ideas and people. A prime example was the opportunity to work with Professor Paul Wyatt, a former senior leader at Astex, one of the companies responsible for revolutionising the field of medicinal chemistry with the introduction of Fragment Based Drug Discovery.’

After about seven and a half years, Michael moved to BioAscent as a Senior Scientist in the chemistry department. At that time, BioAscent was expanding to become an integrated drug discovery contract research organisation and there was a recruitment drive to attract chemists and biologists to join the company.

‘It was comforting to know I would be working with many good people that I had worked with in the past. With the chemistry and biology teams being relatively new, this was an exciting opportunity for me to take on a new challenge.’

As the company and the chemistry team grew, a management structure formed and Michael became a team leader, overseeing a team of chemists and taking responsibility for a number of customer and internal projects.

‘Working at BioAscent has allowed me to work on multiple different projects and interface directly with the customer. Throughout my career, I've gained a wealth of knowledge from various projects and colleagues. Now, I leverage this expertise to deliver successful outcomes for clients. Our close collaboration with the compound management, biosciences and computational chemistry teams ensures efficient, high-quality solutions.’

Away from the lab, Michael enjoys playing (and talking) football in his spare time, as well as enjoying the outdoors whilst mountain biking.

Integrated Drug Discovery

Science-led drug discovery

Get in Touch

Let's talk about how we can maximise your drug discovery success.