Dr James Mui completed his PhD in medicinal chemistry at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, in 2015. He now works in industry where he continues to use his expertise in drug discovery.
After completing an undergraduate degree in chemistry, James embarked on a PhD at the ICR to build on his interest in using chemistry to answer biological questions.
“The PhD projects at the ICR, being multidisciplinary in nature, seemed really interesting and would allow me to explore the chemistry-biology interface,” he says.
His project aimed to discover small molecule inhibitors of a promising cancer drug target called Nek7. Finding chemical compounds that can specifically block the activity of this enzyme could be an effective way to treat certain cancers but, he says: “it was extremely challenging to increase the potency against this kinase.”
Doing a PhD at the ICR provided James with the hands-on research experience that helped to confirm his passion for applying chemistry to discover new drugs. He also made the most of various other academic and social opportunities that were available at the institute.
“I played basketball with colleagues, took part in weekly chemistry problem-solving sessions and was a student confidant,” he says. “I was also a member of a team that reached the final of a national retrosynthesis competition.”
After leaving the ICR, James began working as a medicinal chemist for a contract research organisation called Charles River Laboratories where he continues to build on his expertise in drug discovery. He is currently working on a project that he has seen from hit-to-lead to lead-optimisation – and hopes will ultimately lead to a clinical candidate.
James’s advice to other prospective students who are considering a career in drug discovery is: “the ICR is a fantastic place to study and will give you the necessary skills to do well in your career.”