Skip to site navigation

UCL Centre for Chemical Biology


The use of chemical probes in biology is central to successful translational research. Specific and selective small molecule probes are of key importance for imaging, probing protein mechanisms and exploring physiology and pathophysiology. They are also at the heart of successful therapeutic intervention in medicine. Our aim is to create a dedicated facility for small molecule synthetic chemistry with the express purpose of developing small molecule probes in collaboration with biomedical scientists for use within academia. We propose to develop:

  • Diverse chemical libraries that can be used for screening.
  • Platform technologies to aid novel rapid synthetic routes for specific purposes.
  • An integrative hub of chemists and biologists working on specific problems requiring chemical biology.

Mission Statement

To establish an International Centre of Excellence for the design and synthesis of small-molecule tools for use in biological and biomedical sciences.

The Centre will provide an academic and technical base in support of UK biomedical sciences and initially, will focus on the world-leading biological and biomedical activity at UCL and the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) at Mill Hill in London . The wide-ranging and excellent research base at UCL and NIMR offers an outstanding environment for the development of such a Centre. The establishment of the Centre will have an enormous impact on a number of important biological studies of clinical relevance including areas such as: neuroscience, heart disease, cancer, TB and HIV.


There are four programmes of generic activity in Chemical Biology which will be developed:

  1. Small molecule modulators of enzymes and proteins.
  2. Development of 'labelled' probes to aid fundamental biological and clinical studies, including imaging.
  3. Synthetic peptide and protein chemistry to aid fundamental biological and clinical studies.
  4. Structure based design, modelling and molecular dynamic simulation.

Strategy and Objectives

  1. To develop specific chemical tools to further our understanding of a wide range of specific problems in the areas of: cardiovascular disease, bacterial infection, neuroscience, cancer, HIV and tuberculosis.
  2. To establish an academic and technical facility providing fundamental chemical tools for basic and applied biological and biomedical science.
  3. To develop new small-molecule inhibitors of clinically relevant enzymes & proteins for development of novel therapeutics.
  4. To develop generic synthetic methods to small molecules and modified proteins. This will have wide ranging applicability for the development of specific new tools for biological and clinical sciences.
  5. To provide a leading centre for education and training of Chemical Biologists.
  6. To expose basic and clinical scientists to the tools and opportunities available in Chemical Biology.
  7. To establish a significant small-molecule compound collection for the UK biomedical community.

In order to achieve our aims and objectives we have assembled an interdisciplinary group of staff who represent basic and clinical sciences and all have a keen interest in Chemical Biology methods. Underpinning this proposal is a core membership of Chemists who are in the Department of Chemistry at UCL (research rating 5**).

Core Members

Professor S. Caddick (Director)
Professor C. Marson
Dr Stefan Howorka
Dr Helen Hailes
Dr Alethea Tabor
Dr Jon Wilden
Dr James Baker
Dr Susan Perkins (from 07)
Dr Derek MacMillan

UCL Collaborators

Dimitri Kullmann (Institute of Neurology)
Michael Duchen (Physiology)
James Leiper (Clinical Pharmacology)
Gabriel Waksman (ISMB)
John Ladbury (Biochemistry)
Paul Driscoll (Biochemistry)
Richard Begent (Oncology)
John Hartley (Oncology)
Dan Hochhauser (Oncology)
Chris Boshoff (ICS)
Ian Jacobs (Women's Health)
Peter Ell (Nuclear Medicine)
Gareth Williams (Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, WIBR)
Mary Collins (UCL/MRC Centre for Medical Molecular Virology)
Ariberto Fassati (Infection and Immunity)
Dominic Withers (Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology)
Mark Pepys (RF&UCH Medical School)
Tony Segal (Molecular Medicine)
David Hawkes (Centre for Medical Imaging and Computing)
Linda Partridge (IHA)
Justin Molloy (NIMR)
Annalise Pastori (NIMR)
Steve Smerdon (NIMR) 

Page last modified on 24 oct 11 16:40