Bringing structural chemistry to Kenya
The IUCr-UNESCO-CCDC OpenLab Kenya entitled “An Introduction to Computational Chemistry and In-Silico Visualization. A Workshop for Sub-Saharan Africa Scientists” took place at Kenyatta University and at the University of Nairobi in Kenya during the week of September 7th-11th, 2015, organised by Dr Juliette Pradon of the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC) and Dr Lewis Whitehead of the Novartis Institute of BioMedical Research, with the local support of Dr Evans Changamu from Kenyatta University and Dr Solomon Derese from the University of Nairobi. Dr Patricia Gitari (The d-orbital Ltd), formerly at Kenyatta University and member of the committee for the African Crystallographic Association, was the local representative of the IUCr.
Nearly 90 attendees, with a range of nationalities (including Kenyan, Nigerian, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Ugandan and Congolese), backgrounds (chemistry, physics, biology) and levels (MSc, PhD and postdoctoral students; university lecturers; academic, governmental and industrial researchers) were introduced to molecular modelling in structural chemistry, medicinal chemistry and drug discovery.
An introduction to modelling in drug discovery was also given, focusing on the hit identification phase and demonstrating the usefulness of computers in this field and the range of modelling techniques applicable to specific problems. Participants also had the opportunity to hear from Dr Lewis Whitehead about several past challenges in medicinal chemistry and to themselves apply the CSD System to these challenges.
Finally, Dr Patricia Gitari, as the local representative of the IUCr, raised awareness among the participants of the various past and future IUCr activities in the world and more particularly in Africa. The feedback from participants of this OpenLab was very positive, with many enthusing that they wished it was longer. Looking ahead, future editions of this workshop in East Africa would benefit greatly from having a practical session on a powder and single-crystal diffractometer, and a broader crystallographic education session to help participants understand how structures deposited in the CSD are solved. Once technical expertise on diffractometers has been formed locally, it would be of great benefit to establish a regional centre of diffraction studies, open to all Kenyan and regional institutions, where diffractometers would be available to solve crystal structures. The formation of an African Crystallography Association, once Kenya and other African nations become a member country of the IUCr – as Cameroon has recently done and others surely will do after the first Pan-African Crystallography Conference to be held in Cameroon next year – will shape the advancement of crystallography in Africa and contribute to its recognition as benefiting the entire continent.
Juliette Pradon, CCDC
Patricia Gitari, The d-orbital Ltd