I am a medicinal chemist. I have several roles within the School of Life Sciences as Head of the Division of Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery and Head of Medicinal Chemistry within the Drug Discovery Unit and the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research.
I obtained a degree in Natural Sciences (chemistry) at the University of Cambridge in 1986 and then went on to complete a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry in Cambridge with Andrew Holmes (1990), working on the synthesis of phosphatidyl inositols. I spent 6 months working at Parke-Davis Neuroscience Centre looking at novel amide bond isosteres. Following this, I lectured chemistry at the University of Zambia, Lusaka. I returned to the UK and spent two years doing post-doctoral research in Biological Chemistry at the University of Cambridge with Jim Staunton.
In 1994, I moved to the Welsh School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University to take up a lectureship in Medicinal Chemistry. It was there that I established a medicinal chemistry research group focusing on infectious diseases, with a particular interest in neglected tropical diseases.
In 2005, I moved to the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee to a chair in Medicinal Chemistry. I was involved in setting up the Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) in Dundee, where I am Head of Medicinal Chemistry. My role is to direct and manage the role of the medicinal chemists and I am a member of the senior management team of the DDU.
In 2013, I became Head of Division of Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery. This is a multi-disciplinary research division within the College of Life Sciences, consisting of 12 research groups with a strong focus on Translational Research. The division covers bioinformatics, chemoinformatics, molecular parasitology, structural biology, molecular pharmacology, drug metabolism & pharmacokinetics, medicinal chemistry and biological chemistry.
New Therapeutic Agents
My main research interests are in the design of potential new drug leads and potential therapeutic agents. In the Drug Discovery Unit (DDU), our focus is on neglected diseases and novel drug targets. We are tackling a number of neglected diseases such as the kinetoplastids, malaria, tuberculosis and animal trypanosomiasis. Our novel targets programme looks at new areas of biology that have not been tackled before from a drug discovery perspective, with the aim of de-risking them for further development. We have an integrated approach to drug discovery, including medicinal chemistry, hit discovery and cell biology, DMPK, computational chemistry and structural biology. We have developed a number of series from hits to full lead optimization programmes.
New Approaches to Drug Discovery
There is a very high rate of attrition within the drug discovery process, so I am interested in new approaches to drug discovery. Some examples of this work are:
· Validation of new drug targets.
· New computational approaches to drug discovery.
· Developing new fragments for fragment-based drug discovery.
· Selective delivery of compounds to organisms.
Mode of Action Studies
I am interested in understanding how compounds exert their pharmacological action. This is important, particularly for compounds derived from phenotypic screens. Knowing the target(s) of compounds is important in establishing and validating new biology, as well as adding to the drug discovery process. I am interested in applying chemistry to solve these problems, through techniques such as chemical proteomics.