Chemistry PhD student built library of new compounds to help cancer research

Raysa Khan

Raysa's story

“The reason I came to medicinal chemistry and pursued a career in drug discovery is that I have always wanted to make an impact and help others,” Raysa said. She has begun to achieve that aim by developing BDZ type compounds, which are used by chemists as a framework for attaching chemical groups to create new compounds.

Raysa spent three months at Astra Zeneca Tocris labs working on the development of a BDZ-based probe, a reagent used in chemical analysis. “I gained an in-depth insight into the commercial and business aspects of medicinal chemistry during my industrial placement. It has been a steep learning curve, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience,” Raysa said.


I lost my grandmother to cancer when I was 17. I have seen the effect cancer can have on families and the lives of people.” Raysa Khan 
University of Sussex Chemistry PhD student

Cancer research is a personal topic to Raysa. “I lost my grandmother to cancer when I was 17. I have seen the effect cancer can have on families and the lives of people. Therefore, cancer research has always been something I felt drawn to.”

Benzodiazepine analogues bind not only to the receptors in our central nervous system but also to a diverse array of other proteins. The compounds are easily soluble and easily distributed throughout the body, and could help bring about new research discoveries into cancer research and research into other diseases.

“Through participating in this program Tocris has expanded its network of collaborators and enabled a young scientist to gain experience of working in an industrial environment”, said Rob Felix, the Head of Product Development at Tocris.

Raysa is now continuing her focus on medicinal chemistry cancer research as a Research Fellow at the University of Sussex.

The Award was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in partnership with Astra Zeneca Tocris (part of Bio-Techne Ltd) through an Industrial Cooperative Award in Science and Technology.


Author: Suzanne Fisher-Murray
Date published: February 2020


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