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Postdoc Profile: Dr. Manuel Lasalle

March 01, 2016
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Modern drug development strategies imply targeting the right patient inside a global population. But what if we could take this concept a step further? What if instead of only targeting the right patient, we could also target a specific organ within the patient? This challenge is the reason why Dr. Manuel Lasalle wakes up every single day!

Dr. Lasalle’s academic career is defined by his passion for discovery. During his PhD in medicinal chemistry at the University of Lille in France, he developed original molecules to open new doors in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. His work in the Benoit Deprez lab focused on the gut. Instead of trying to modify the glucose metabolism inside the whole body, molecules were designed to stay inside the gut, using the intestine as an intermediate to rally the body forces that tackle hyperglycemia.

Dr. Lasalle recently relocated to SFU and is now part of a million dollar grant project in the Robert N. Young lab. The project aims to develop more efficient way to address bone diseases, such as osteoporosis. In this world-class research laboratory, he designs and synthesizes new compounds that are able to find their way to bone, while avoiding other organs.

 “Sure I am a chemist, but I am also a pharmacist. And this means that my work has to, in some way, work towards improving public health,” Dr. Lasalle points out.

Manuel makes sure to keep this goal in mind when fighting against diseases. His focus includes diabetes mellitus, the first non-infectious epidemic according to the WHO, and osteoporosis both wide-spread long term debilitating pathologies. He also works with more acute and aggressive diseases such as bone cancer, bone infection and bone pain. According to Dr. Lasalle, “these pathologies are particularly hard to treat with usual drugs because of the relative inaccessibility of the bone tissue. Results from our research could lead to better ways of treating them.”

Even though the two projects can appear very different, the same strategy connects them: if you concentrate a compound on the right organ, you may improve its efficacy while decreasing its toxicity. “During the last ten years, failures in clinical trials were mostly due to a lack of efficacy. We need new validated targets and new strategies to improve the balance between benefice and risk. Thankfully, this project is working on both,” Dr. Lasalle explains.

With so much work ahead, it’s a good thing that Manuel loves what he does. When asked about what he likes best about his field, Manuel told us, with a huge smile on his face, that the beauty about medicinal chemistry is that as a 27 year old he is able to play with ®Lego to cure diseases!  

When not wearing a lab coat, Dr. Lasalle enjoys a variety of outdoors activities, such as hiking, skiing, scuba-diving, and paragliding. Stepping up on stage is another one of his hobbies, as he has been playing the French horn for the last 13 years. This musical talent, alongside his Famelab participation and awards that highlight his presentation skills, all stem from his passion for storytelling.

The first results from the Robert N. Young lab are promising, and Dr. Lasalle is eager to keep the momentum going. When asked about his future, Manuel states that he wants to join a pharma-focused biotech company or work as an analyst, in Venture Capital for instance. Until then, he intends to continue exploring, building, and sharing his passion for medicinal chemistry with the world! 

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