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

Jeffrey Hill
Director & Professor of Drug Discovery

Jeffrey Hill

Ruth Murrell-Lagnado

Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacology 

 

 

Ruth 

 

Research Staff

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Gareth Williams
Biologist




Irina Chuckowree
Medicinal Chemist


Dawn Field
Biologist


Kamlesh Bala
Medicinal Chemist


Hedaythul Choudhury
Electrophysiologist


Sarah Lilley
Electrophysiologist


Oana Popa
Electrophysiologist


Roy Fox
Biologist

Karen portrait 
Karen Scruby
SDDC Technical Support

 Portrait

Jessica Booth 

Assay Development & Screening 

Portrait 

Michael Annis 

Synthetic Chemist 

 

 



Portrait
Kay Osborn
Research Fellow in Cell Biology 

Portrait
Will Pearce
Assay Development and creening

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Mohan Rajasekaran
Protein Production and Structural Biology

 

 

 

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 group was founded by Professor Simon Ward (GSK) and Professor John Atack (Merk,Janssen) 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.

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 Professor Martin Gosling (Novartis) joined SDDC 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) in 2015. 

Professor Jeffrey Hill (GlaxoSmithKline) became the new Director of SDDC in 2019.