The Chemical Biology group brings together scientific expertise in a broad range of areas, from medicinal chemistry to cell biology:
I. Medicinal chemistry
We take a variety of approaches to access new areas of chemical space – from the rational design of small molecular probes and inhibitors for therapeutically interesting targets (e.g., glycosyltransferases, immunoglobulin G) to novel approaches in natural product chemistry. Synthetically, we have particular strengths in peptide, nucleotide, carbohydrate and heterocyclic chemistry, and in the chemical modification of nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery. We also have a strong interest in marine natural products, to explore the potential of natural products derived from marine symbiosis for drug discovery.
Natural product chemistry is also represented by the development of novel analytical approaches to the standardisation of complex mixtures as in plant extracts, and also the use of informatics in drug discovery.
II. Bioinorganic chemistry
The group has a world-leading reputation for its contributions to the development of clinically-useful iron chelators. Deferiprone, the first orally active iron chelator introduced into man was designed by Professor Bob Hider’s research group. The drug is already used worldwide for the treatment of iron overload, and we are now exploring its potential for the treatment of various forms of neurodegeneration as well as parasitic infections.
III. Bioanalytical chemistry
The Chemical Biology group is the home of one of the few international laboratories capable of the synthesis and quantitation of hepcidin, a master regulator of iron metabolism. The hepcidin assay developed in Dr Sukhi Bansal’s laboratory is currently being used in clinical studies carried out with Novartis and Vifor Pharma. We also have expertise in the use of mass spectrometry for metabolomics.
IV. Cell biology
The group has established models in several prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms, including yeast and C. elegans, for applications in Chemical Biology. The group of Dr Colin Dolphin, for example, has developed novel methodologies enabling high-throughput, and large-scale recombineering for high fidelity gene expression analysis in C. elegans.