University of Sussex - PhD Chemistry

EPSRC PhD in Chemistry: Atom and Step Economical Late Stage Functionalisation of Bioactive Compounds (2022)

An EPSRC PhD studentship (42 months) is available from 1st October 2022, under the supervision of Dr George Kostakis, Chemistry, School of Life Sciences.

What you get

The PhD position is fully funded by EPSRC. Funding includes full UK or International tuition fees, a research training grant (£1,650 per annum) and a stipend at UKRI rates (currently £16,062pa) for 3.5 years.

Type of award

Postgraduate Research

PhD project

Atom and Step Economical Late Stage Functionalisation of Bioactive Compounds

Synthetic chemists have always been fascinated with creating molecular complexity from readily available starting materials. The typical cost of developing a drug is over 2 billion USD, and the time required to reach the market is approximately 14 years. With a very high attrition rate, faster, more economical processes for creating these entities are welcome. Selective processes that lead to the correct shape of the drug ensure that it fits correctly in its 3D-biological chiral protein target. Moreover, drugs need to be made on a large scale.

We have recently described a series of metal catalysed multicomponent reactions that are “atom economical”, using all atoms to create complicated architectures with 3D shapes, to complement the complexity of protein targets. Moreover, the catalytic nature ensures that energy use, waste production, solvent use are minimal, so have the potential for large scale production. Also, the catalysts are very easy to make and are stable in air, making them readily available and scalable, and the fact that we can monitor and optimise new reactions without requiring expensive inert gases. We aim to demonstrate that these catalytic reactions have real-world applications as in the design of PROTAC (proteolysis targeting chimeras) molecules for targeted protein degradation, an area of intense current academic and commercial interest. PROTACs induce the ubiquitination machinery to tag a protein for recycling by the proteasome. Structurally guided drug design and biological assays can form a feedback loop to our synthetic chemistry where we can optimise the PROTACs to improve their selectivity and properties, such as solubility, permeability, and stability. These findings will profoundly influence the design and optimisation of PROTACs and linker chemistry in general, and the combination of academic groups with leading UK industrial partners will enable us to attain our goals.


Candidates must have or expect to obtain a minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree. An MSc degree will be advantageous. Your qualification should be in chemistry or a related subject area. You may also be considered for the position if you have other professional qualifications or experience of equivalent standing.

Candidates for whom English is not their first language will require an IELTS (or equivalent) score of 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in any section.

Please check our Admissions page for further information: Chemistry PhD : University of Sussex


10 June 2022 23:45

How to apply

Please submit a formal application via How to apply for a PhD : PhD : Study with us : University of Sussex and upload the following supporting documents:

  • Personal Statement (no research proposal required),
  • CV,
  • BSc/MSc degree transcripts AND certificates,
  • Two references on academic letterhead
  • English language proficiency documentation if required.

On the application system select Programme of Study – PhD Chemistry, and September 2022 entry date. Please ensure you state 'EPSRC DTP 2022' in the funding section and state the supervisor’s name when prompted.

Contact us

For enquiries about the application process, contact Emma Chorley: 


For enquiries about the project, contact George Kostakis


At level(s):
PG (research)

Application deadline:
10 June 2022 23:45 (GMT)
the deadline has now expired


The award is available to people from these specific countries: