The Institute of Cancer Research is the world’s leading academic centre for drug discovery. ICR scientists have discovered 20 new drug candidates since 2005, of which 10 have entered clinical trials.
The ICR’s Division for Cancer Therapeutics houses around 200 scientists and brings together a wide variety of disciplines, including cell and molecular biology, pharmacology, tumour modelling, computational and structural biology, and medicinal chemistry.
The division works to select promising drug targets, design effective prototype drugs and biomarkers, and develop strategies to counter drug resistance. Its scientists work closely with researchers in drug development across the ICR and with clinical researchers, including in the joint Drug Development Unit (DDU), a flagship partnership between the ICR and its partner hospital The Royal Marsden.
Professor Ian Collins is Head of Chemistry in the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR. He has been involved drug discovery research for 25 years, since starting his career in a major pharmaceutical company.
Professor Collins leads a team of medicinal chemists who are aiming to discover new cancer drugs. Their impressive track record includes the transformation of several hit compounds to potent and selective drug molecules – such as the discovery of AKT and Chk1 kinase inhibitors that led to clinical candidates. His team is currently exploring several new targets.
Professor Collins’ work hugely benefits from collaborating with others – including cancer biologists within the Cancer Therapeutics Unit and industrial partners. These interactions help to generate new ideas and accelerate the discovery and development of new drug candidates with the most potential for treating cancer.