Dr. Guillaume Lessene was trained as an organic chemist. In 2001, he joined the then newly created Medicinal Chemistry laboratory at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and now heads the New Medicines and Advanced Technology Centre. Dr. Lessene is an expert in targeting proteins that regulate cell death processes, in particular apoptosis. His research exploits organic and medicinal chemistry as well as chemical biology to translate groundbreaking biological discoveries into small molecules.
Dr. Lessene has made landmark discoveries by developing novel, potent and selective inhibitors of pro-survival BCL-2 proteins to induce apoptosis in cancers. This research laid the foundation for a major collaboration with Genentech and AbbVie. During that collaboration, he contributed to the development of a series of molecules that selectively targets BCL-2 resulting in ABT-199 (now Venetoclax®), now marketed for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.