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  Design and synthesis of chemical tools to interrogate cannabinoid receptors - synthetic, medicinal chemistry

   Department of Chemistry

   Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Research project

We are seeking a highly motivated PhD candidate to join an interdisciplinary team at the University of Otago, to undertake research developing chemical probes for the cannabinoid receptor, a type of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR). This project primarily involves the design and multi-step organic synthesis of small molecule ligands and conjugates as chemical tools for the cannabinoid receptor. Further details of this project can be discussed upon application.

This project will involve techniques such as anhydrous reaction conditions, silica column chromatography, HPLC, NMR, MS and HPLC. Research experience in laboratory-based multi-step organic synthesis is essential (e.g. a minimum of a synthetic Honours or Masters research project). There is also scope for the student to expand their organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry skill set by undertaking experiments in other disciplines during this project, for example molecular modelling and/or biological assays.

This project will be based at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand (, primarily supervised by Dr Andrea Vernall (


The candidate will hold a BSc (Hons) or MSc in organic or medicinal chemistry or synthetic drug discovery or a related discipline, or a BPharm (Hons) or MPharm with a significant synthetic chemistry component. The candidate will have completed a practical multi-step organic chemistry project (e.g. not a taught Masters) and will be enthusiastic and passionate about research.

The student must apply for and successfully gain a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship. A GPA equivalent to an Otago GPA of 8.0 (A) or above on a 9 point scale is necessary for competitive Scholarship application. This University Scholarship application is made with the support of the potential PhD supervisor, so please contact Dr Vernall () as the first step.

To Apply / Express interest in this project

Please send your CV and academic transcript, which includes a mark/GPA breakdown, to Dr Vernall. Please note as per University regulations - an English language test document may also be required, for instance if English is not your first language.

Chemistry (6)

Funding Notes

The applicant must be eligible for admission to the PhD programme at the University of Otago, and apply and be awarded a University of Otago doctoral scholarship (View Website). The PhD scholarship provides NZ$32,544 stipend per annum plus a tuition fees waiver for 36 months (excludes student services fee and insurance, which are a cost directly for the student). International candidates receive the same package as New Zealand residents provided they reside in New Zealand for the duration of the project and study under a New Zealand student visa.


Liddle, I.; Glass, M.; Tyndall, J. D.A.; Vernall, A.J.; Covalent cannabinoid receptor ligands – structural insight and selectivity challenges. RSC Med. Chem., 2022,13, 497-510
Trinh, P. N. H.; Chong, D. J. W.; Leach, K.; Leach, A. R.; Hill, S. J.; Tyndall, J. D. A.; May, L. T.; Vernall, A. J.; Gregory, K. J. Development of Covalent, Clickable Probes for Adenosine A1 and A3 Receptors. J. Med. Chem. 2021,–10.1021–acs.jmedchem.0c02169.
Singh, S.; Oyagawa, C. R. M.; MacDonald, C.; Grimsey, N. L.; Glass, M.; Vernall, A. J. Chromenopyrazole-Based High Affinity, Selective Fluorescent Ligands for Cannabinoid Type 2 Receptor. ACS Med. Chem. Lett. 2019, 10 (2), 209–214.

Register your interest for this project

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