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Scientist Spotlight | Denny Medjedovic

Updated: Jun 26

Founder of Aspartes Pharmaceuticals

What is your earliest memory of being interested in science?

It was actually my older brother that became obsessed with math and physics when he was very young. He had always been a big inspiration for me and so naturally, I too was exposed to science at a very early age. While I was still in primary school, I held a keen interest in astronomy and learning about the different planets, stars, and the many galaxies that surround our solar system. There was always something intriguing about exploring the unknown and unreachable, I’d say that a majority of people don’t fully grasp how large the universe actually is.

However, I soon realized that there wasn’t much of a future (financially) in terms of learning about stars and planets which is when I started to devote myself to chemistry, and later on, pharmacology. That’s when I really came into my own.

What piece of equipment is your favorite to use and why?

Something I always found fascinating was the ability for neurons to move around the brain as they’re growing so that the different types of brain cells can all get to their designated location. Under the inverted microscopes at Nest.Bio, you can clearly see how the cells grow to form their distinctive web-like patterns. Depending on the density of the cells, you could even use the microscopes to see the dendrites slowly moving around and grappling to other cells in real time.

What is the most challenging part of your field and how do you deal with that challenge?

A major obstacle when it comes to working in this notoriously difficult sector is the lack of accurate ways that neurological diseases can be modeled in physiological settings that also allow for rapid and iterative testing. This deficiency leads to a lack of effective translatability in identifying and measuring key biomarkers of disease pathology and in developing clinically viable products.

We can overcome this obstacle by integrating patient-derived neuronal models together with novel applications of high-throughput screening technology. This approach provides us with a quantitative insight into the inner workings of diseased cells and allows us to prioritize assessing intracellular response to individual targets. We can obtain early validation that our compounds are producing disease-modifying effects and are actively addressing the underlying dysfunctional properties manifesting the disease.

What would you like to see for the future of your field of research in 20 years?

I would like to see the industry demonstrate a larger focus on discovering therapeutics specifically for rare neurological disorders. Undoubtedly, neuroscience stands out as one of the most challenging therapeutic areas in drug development. Disorders that affect the central nervous system prove to be the most severe and debilitating for patients, producing a devastating impact on their standard of living. Yet, when it comes time to test the clinical efficacy of these investigational drugs, they show some of the lowest success rates compared to all other therapeutic areas. We need to find better translational models and really focus on transferring the science from the laboratory to the clinic.

When not working at Aspartes Pharmaceuticals, what do you typically like to do? 

Since starting the company, I haven’t had much down time to relax and any free time I do have I usually spend running errands that I can’t get to during the week. I’ve got several key milestones I’d like to hit before I’ll allow myself to take a break.

Thank you, Denny, for sharing your insights into neurological therapeutics and what led you to biotech!

For more information on Aspartes Pharmaceuticals click the link.

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