I am fascinated by how to make new molecules with useful biological activities. My work at the ICR aims to discover and develop new drugs to treat cancer, and I have been involved in drug discovery research for 25 years since starting my career as a medicinal chemist in a major pharmaceutical company. I have a strong interest in using protein structures to understand how drugs bind to their target proteins, and how to improve their properties. My team has transformed several hit compounds to potent and selective potential drug molecules using this approach including the discovery of AKT and CHK1 inhibitors leading to clinical candidates. Other compounds are at various stages on the journey to the clinic. We collaborate extensively with our colleagues in the ICR and other organisations to use the compounds we make as tools to understand cancer biology and to develop them as drug candidates. I have a long-standing interest in the synthesis of heterocycles and many of my team’s projects look at new, efficient ways to put together these important molecules.
Before joining The Institute of Cancer Research, I trained as a synthetic chemist under the supervision of Professor Andrew B Holmes at Cambridge University, receiving a PhD for research into a new way of making alkaloid natural products. I joined the Neuroscience Research Centre of Merck Sharp & Dohme Ltd as a drug discovery chemist, researching new drugs to treat psychiatric and neurological disorders. Major contributions included the discovery of the first selective antagonists for the dopamine D4 receptor, the development of sub-type selective GABA-A agonists as anxiolytics, and the discovery of potent gamma-secretase inhibitors for the treatment of Alzheimers disease. In 2003, I moved to my current post in the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR, becoming a Reader in Medicinal Chemistry in 2008 and Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in 2013.