The principal aim of our research is the design and synthesis of novel molecules with the aim of developing new cancer drugs.
Cytotoxic agents, which act by damaging the DNA of all cells, rely on the fact that cancer cells replicate more rapidly than normal cells and so are more susceptible to such toxic agents. Unfortunately, these drugs lead to wide ranging and debilitating side-effects.
As the result of our greater understanding of the biochemical pathways that drive cancers, we now have the opportunity to intervene in a more selective manner by inhibiting these aberrant pathways or by harnessing the patient’s own immune system to fight the tumour.
Our research in collaboration with our colleagues at The Institute of Cancer Research aims to identify novel small molecules which can modulate these pathways with the aim of developing new, more effective cancer drugs.
Within medicinal chemistry, we aim to develop small molecules that target particular proteins in various cellular pathways. This often starts with the invention and synthesis of chemical probes to study the pharmacological effects of inhibition of the target protein.
In addition, we use a variety of approaches to kick start our programmes including high throughput, virtual and fragment based screening. We seek to utilise a full range of modern synthetic organic chemistry to elaborate our hit molecules with the aim of generating compounds best suited to our particular molecular target. The interaction with structural biology and computational chemistry plays a key role in the design and optimisation of these potent selective molecules.
We subsequently carry out multifactorial optimisation of our compounds to turn them into potential anti-cancer drugs. Modulation of the physiochemical properties of our molecules plays a key role in ensuring that we not only have potent and selective molecules but also that we can achieve sufficient drug exposure in patients.
The multidisciplinary nature of drug discovery makes it a challenging and rewarding arena to work in, as in addition to specialist chemistry knowledge and skills, we have to possess and/or develop an understanding of the pharmacokinetics and biology involved. The strong and effective interaction between chemistry and biology within the Unit puts us at the forefront of academic drug discovery.
In addition to the directed drug discovery projects, we are involved in more fundamental aspects of research usually involving PhD students.