11 May 2011   |   News

Dundee University to lead £200K UK-wide collaboration in drug discovery

The Drug Discovery Unit at Dundee is to spearhead the development of a national network to allow researchers to work together in fragment-based drug design

The Drug Discovery Unit at Dundee University has been awarded a £200,000 grant to work with other not-for profit drug discovery and chemistry groups, to build a UK-wide network for fragment-based drug design.

The grant - awarded jointly by three research councils, the EPSRC, BBSRC and MRC - will support the creation of 3D fragment libraries for use in drug discovery.

Screening fragments of potential drug molecules makes it easier to identify entities with the ability to bind to a specific protein target. Once such a hit is pinpointed, it is more straightforward to build on this structure to create an optimised drug, since it is easier to bolt the desired properties onto a small molecule, than to modify existing parts of a larger one.

In addition, the process of building a drug molecule around a fragment makes it more likely the resulting entity will be novel and patentable.

“This award will allow us to build a unique consortium, with engagement of the major UK not-for-profit drug discovery groups, in combination with excellent synthetic and computational chemistry groups in UK universities,” said Ian Gilbert, a professor at Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit. “This network grant gives us the opportunity to develop the consortium and actively seek further members and interactions.”

The founding organisations in the network are:

  • Drug Discovery Unit, Dundee University;
  • MRC Technology, the technology commercialisation arm of the Medical Research Council;
  • Cancer Research Technology, the commercialisation arm of the charity Cancer Research UK
  • The Institute of Cancer Research
  • Department of Chemistry, Cambridge University
  • Structural Genomics Consortium, Oxford
  • University College London
  • The Beatson Drug Discovery Programme in Glasgow

The project is one of seven new networks being funded by the EPSRC, BBSRC and MRC that aim to increase collaborative research and identify and refine research priorities and challenges.

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