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


Ruth Murrell-Lagnado
Acting Director of SDDC Reader in Neuroscience


Martin Gosling
Professor of Molecular Pharmacology


Henry Danahay
Senior Research Fellow


Darren Le Grand
Senior Medicinal Chemist

Research Staff

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Gareth Williams
Biologist


Lewis Pennicott
Medicinal Chemist


Irina Chuckowree
Medicinal Chemist


Ben Wahab
Computational Chemist


Marco Derudas
Medicinal Chemist


Dawn Field
Biologist


Kamlesh Bala
Medicinal Chemist


Sarah Lilley
Electrophysiologist


Oana Popa
Electrophysiologist


Roy Fox
Biologist

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Srinivasan Natarajan
Medicinal Chemist


Hedaythul Choudhury
Electrophysiologist

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Carol Villalonga-Barber
Research Technician

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Holly Charlton
Biochemist

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Kay Osborn
Research Technician

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Samuele Maramai
Medicinal Chemist

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Will Pearce
Assay Development and Screening

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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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Michael Annis
Synthetic Chemist

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Kathryn Adley
Research Fellow in Epithelial Biology

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Tesh Patel
Biology Leader

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Karen Scruby
SDDC Technical Support

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Ryan West
Medicinal Chemist

 

Research Students

 

 

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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.

 

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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).