An Interview with Martin Slater

Dr. Martin Slater joined Cresset in May 2011 as Director of Consulting for the new Professional Services Division.  His extensive experience in a variety of computational chemistry projects gives him an especially good insight into the problems faced by drug discovery professionals.   In his relatively short time at Cresset, Martin has already worked on an impressive array of service projects, most recently including the collaboration with RedX Pharma.

Martin loves making new discoveries, dreams of space travel and is an amazing asset to the Cresset team.  Get to know our Director of Consulting, Dr. Martin Slater.

1. What was your first job?

My very first job was probably working at Fox’s biscuit factory in Batley West Yorkshire in the break between college and university. I will never forget the overpowering sickly sweet smell.

My first chemistry job was a sandwich year placement at ICI Huddersfield where I got facial paraesthesia in the pyrethroids lab and did a stint of 12 hour nightshifts on a pilot plant.   It was a great laugh mainly because of the team’s fantastic sense of humor although sadly their names escape me now.  I remember wearing bright yellow trousers and rainbow braces to work – it was a different time….

2. What would you say is your career highlight thus far?

Difficult to say after 14 years in the pharma industry – it doesn’t seem like very long in the scheme of things.  Working at BioFocus was a fantastic learning experience.  It gave me a chance to work in a small dynamic CRO alongside the directors from the beginning, watching the company go from strength to strength which provided a rare insight. A personal highlight would be seeing something from a project I worked on actually produce something other than nice data.  The nearest I have been so far was for a non-pharmaceutical company when a compound I helped design effectively went straight into man and did what I hoped it would – that was very cool indeed!

 3. Which projects are you most proud of?

Working in a team generally means that the results of the projects are very much joint efforts so it’s difficult to nail any one in particular.  Developing the chemogenomic GPCR tools for BioFocus and helping sell them was something I can take much more individual responsibility for and pride in as a major contributor, although Roger Crossley was the originator of the idea.

4. Who has been your biggest influence professionally?

I can safely say that Roger Crossley was probably the most influential colleague and boss I had in my career so far – a real pleasure to work with and clearly an innovative thinker.  Sally Rose, Paul Doyle and John Harris of the old BioFocus days also remain a guiding influence on my drug discovery thinking today.

5. What do you think about the future of Drug Discovery technology?

I think the future of drug discovery itself lies in our ability to be smarter and more efficient in identifying the right biological targets, the pathways responsible for disease and making the right choices in pursuing them. Technology that can help any part of this process has to be an asset. Discovery based on good in-vivo models and pharmacology is essential, but at the end of the day we have to realize drug discovery is research, which often provides more questions than answers.  We need our excellent scientists to think deeply about more far reaching solutions to our problems rather than following the quickest and easiest route.  I fear some technologies out there are substituting creative thought for standardization and uniformity. Fortunately, I also believe innovation will persist and overcome the limitations we impose on ourselves.

 6. What do you love most about your job?

Variety is the spice of life, and I was spoiled in my earlier career working for a company without any drug discovery portfolio – anything went! I could be working on anti-virals one month and nuclear receptors the next.  I have a healthy thirst for knowledge particularly when it comes to protein drug targets and how biological machines work….or don’t work! Nature is fascinating to me, particularly on the molecular level and I love making new discoveries of all kinds.  Occasionally these discoveries are just for personal insight but more often than not they have proven to be commercially useful.

 7. What kind of projects do you get most excited about?

Projects which most excite me are ones which are on the cusp of having just enough information for a logical progression, ideally with good biology and by this I mean a clear pharmacological basis without full chemical precedence. I love something new, a fresh a crazy idea.  Something that works will make perfect sense but at the same time will be a revelation.

8. What would you eat for your last meal on earth?

I would probably have difficulty deciding between a classic English meal (roast beef, roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding), Sushi, Dim Sum (at least 2 char siu buns from Ping Pong) and a decent lamb curry. But it would definitely have to be finished off with something very chocolatey or cherry pie and ice cream…..or prunes and custard. This is making me hungry.

9. You’re forced to go on holiday tomorrow: where would you go?

If money wasn’t an objective  I would take all the family into orbit to look back down onto the earth from space!   More realistically, probably skiing would do, or scuba diving.   So many places to go so little time.

Want to speak to Martin about consulting services, the future of drug discovery or just ask him why he wore those yellow trousers?  Email or phone 01707 356120, he’ll happy to help.