Sussex Drug Discovery Centre (SDDC)

About us

The Sussex Drug Discovery Centre (SDDC) is a fully integrated group of drug discovery scientists, equipped with industry-standard equipment and capabilities, based at the University of Sussex. Our goal is the discovery of novel therapeutics for diseases with high unmet medical need.

What we do

The core aim of the centre is to deliver mature drug discovery assets for subsequent partnering and onward development. Central to this is the generation of a highly differentiated and commercially attractive portfolio – the group has adopted two strategies to deliver this:

  • New approaches to old targets – many attractive and validated targets are yet to be targeted by marketed medicines; the group has programs aimed at delivering best in class molecules with the potential to reach market
  • New approaches to new targets – collaborations with basic and clinical research scientists in Sussex and outside is delivering novel and structurally-enabled targets to start discovery activities.

We also play a strong role in the delivery of new chemical probes to assist target validation, particularly through our PhD studentship projects.

In addition to delivering and enabling novel therapeutics, the group aims to play a key role in training the next generation of potential drug discoverers – the extensive experience and expertise within the SDDC is, via PhD studentships and establishing vocational courses within the University, being used to achieve this important goal.

Who we are


Simon Ward
Professor of Medicinal Chemistry


Martin Gosling
Professor of Molecular Pharmacology


Henry Danahay
Senior Research Fellow


Darren Le Grand
Senior Medicinal Chemist

Research Staff


Michael Paradowski
Medicinal Chemist

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Gareth Williams
Biologist


Lewis Pennicott
Medicinal Chemist


Ben Wahab
Computational Chemist


Irina Chuckowree
Medicinal Chemist


Marcus Hanley
Biologist


Marco Derudas
Medicinal Chemist


Dawn Field
Biologist


Kamlesh Bala
Medicinal Chemist

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Alessandro Mazzacani
Medicinal Chemist

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Tristan Reuillon
Medicinal Chemist


Sarah Lilley
Electrophysiologist


Oana Popa
Electrophysiologist


Roy Fox
Biologist


Hedaythul Choudhury
Electrophysiologist


Mark Honey
Medicinal Chemist


Jose M Gascon
Medicinal Chemist


Iain Barrett
Pharmacologist

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Holly Charlton
Biochemist

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Srinivasan Natarajan
Medicinal Chemist

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Karen Scruby
Research Technician

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Kay Osborn
Research Technician

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Raj Gill
Laboratory Leader Biology

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Mohamed Benchekroun
Medicinal Chemist

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Tom Keating
DMPK Assay Technician

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Isabelle Fromageot
Research Technician

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Olivia Simmonds
Biochemist

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Samuele Maramai
Medicinal Chemist

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Alexander Ashall-Kelly
Medicinal Chemist

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Will Pearce
Assay Development and Screening

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Penny Turner
Medicinal Chemist

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Marie James
Research Technician

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Mohan Rajasekaran
Protein Production and Structural Biology

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Andrea Gunnell
Cell Biologist

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Jessica Booth
Assay Development and Screening

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Banusha Rajeenthira
Research Technician

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Nisha Peter
Cell Biologist

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Jessica Hudson
Cell Biologist

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Catherine Tighe
Synthetic Chemist

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Michael Annis
Synthetic Chemist

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Jason Gillespie
Synthetic Chemist

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Tesh Patel
Biology Leader

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Elizabeth Owen
Research Fellow in Airway Epithelial Cell Biology

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Yolanda Pena-Oliver
Behavioural Pharmacologist

 
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Kathryn Adley
Research Technician

Research Students

Yusuf Ali

Yusuf is a PhD student that joined in September 2014 and is working on the design and synthesis of novel small molecule inhibitors of helicases to further investigate the role of this class of enzymes in DNA damage repair pathways. He holds a Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) from the School of Pharmacy, University College London.

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Rachael Besser

Rachael joined the SDDC in November 2015 as a PhD student. She is developing novel tools to probe the function of GPR37 within the CNS. Previously she obtained her undergraduate degree, from the University of Leeds, in Medical Sciences with a Year in Industry. The placement year, undertaken at Janssen in Beerse, involved installation of a radioligand binding assay to characterise positive allosteric modulation of a G-protein coupled receptor involved in Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Xiangrong Chen

Xiangrong joined the group in September 2014. She is a PhD student and her research involves the identification of natural product inhibitors of human helicases. She holds a BSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University and an MSc in Drug Discovery and Translational Biology from the University of Edinburgh.She is co-supervised by Frances Pearl [bioinformatics group], Tony Oliver [Oliver group] and Simon Ward [SDDC].

 

Scott Henderson

Scott joined the SDDC in September 2015 as a PhD student. He is working towards discovering inhibitors of an enzyme target involved in several CNS disorders including stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. He studied his undergraduate degree in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry with Industrial Experience (MChem) at the University of Edinburgh. His year in industry was spent at Eisai, and involved in the design, synthesis and characterisation of small organic molecules for the treatment of neurological disorders.

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Lucas Kraft

Lucas holds a BSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Freiburg (Germany) and completed his MSc in Biotechnology at the University of Muenster (Germany). He completed his master’s project externally at the University of Sussex and started his PhD in September 2015 within the SDDC working on a target involved in Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Victoria Miller

Victoria joined in September 2014 as a PhD student. She is studying brain-specific ion channels. She studied her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences (BSc) at the University of Southampton before beginning her PhD at Sussex. She also spent a year in AstraZenaca developing electrophysiology assays which could identify selective blockers of different voltage gated sodium channel subtypes.

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James Noble

James joined the SDDC in September 2015 after obtaining a BSc in Biochemistry from King’s College London (University of London). He is working towards a PhD in Biochemistry that focuses on the development of novel pharmacological tools to probe the function of inositol monophosphatase, a target of lithium in the treatment of bipolar disorder.

Ryan West

Ryan is a PhD student working on new treatments for neglected tropical diseases. He has a BSc in chemistry from Greenwich University, completing his studies as part of an apprenticeship with Novartis. Ryan continued on as a scientific associate for Novartis, working on a variety of medicinal chemistry projects for 5 years before joining the SDDC in October 2014.

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Fiona Scott

Fiona is a PhD student who joined the SDDC in January 2017. She is working on the design and synthesis of small novel molecule inhibitors of genome stability proteins to target cancer. Previously she graduated from University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, with a MChem Chemistry with Drug Discovery which included an industrial placement year as an R&D intern at Corden Pharma Switzerland in Liestal.

History

The group, originally named the Translational Drug Discovery Group, was established in 2011 as part of a strategic initiative by the School of Life Sciences – this was precipitated by:

  • the pharmaceutical industry in the UK experiencing a dramatic and significant decline in recent years, changing the landscape for UK drug discovery
  • the strategic withdrawal of many large pharma organisations from selected therapeutic areas of high unmet medical need eg. neuroscience
  • a slowly increasing availability of funds targeted to academic translational drug discovery eg. Wellcome SDDI, MRC DFPS, venture capital.

The rationale for the group, founded by Professor Simon Ward (GSK), was to create a small, nimble organisation to translate the understanding of fundamental disease biology and validated molecular targets, delineated by Sussex and other academic scientists, into novel drugs.

The group established parallel integrated laboratories focused on medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, the latter led by the group’s second appointment, Professor John Atack (Merck, Janssen).

By 2014 the group had secured more than £9 million in funding from diverse sources including the Wellcome Trust, MRC, Cancer UK and industrial partners. This funding was centred on programs in neuroscience (schizophrenia, cognition, neurodegeneration) and the translation of basic science discoveries from the University’s Genome Damage and Stability Centre (oncology).

In 2014, stimulated by the early success of the group and a drive to consolidate and further expand the drug discovery capabilities, the University made additional investment with the appointment of Professor Martin Gosling (Novartis) and the group expanded its therapeutic focus to include respiratory disease.

As part of the University’s continued development of its drug discovery activities the success and future potential of the group was recognised with the award of Centre status and the group renamed the Sussex Drug Discovery Centre (SDDC).