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Development of antiviral peptidomimetic enzyme inhibitors against SARS-CoV-2

   Department of Chemistry

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  Dr L Trembleau, Dr H Deng  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that circulate and evolve among various animals. They can cause mild human illnesses such as the common cold or more serious respiratory diseases as seen in the recent outbreaks of SARS (2002), MERS (2012), and the COVID-19 pandemic (2019). Effective vaccines against various variants of SARS-CoV-2 (virus causing COVID-19) have rapidly been developed but the production of large quantities of vaccines to protect the world population is challenging and expensive. Over 7 months after the first roll out of vaccinations against SARS-CoV-2, only the richest countries in the world have been able to vaccinate a significant proportion of their population. Some of the poorest countries have not had access to mass vaccination programmes yet. These inequalities and the possible emergence of even more dangerous variants is a cause for great concern, and many pharmaceutical companies have also been trying to develop effective antiviral drugs.

The aim of the proposed research is to design and prepare several peptidomimetic inhibitors of key coronavirus enzymes to help to develop effective antiviral drugs against SARS-CoV-2 (for example, see ref 1 and 2).

The successful candidate will carry out molecular modelling studies to design inhibitors based on known conserved coronavirus enzymes and study the preparation of selected compounds. This work will be performed in the group of Dr Trembleau. The chosen enzyme(s) will be produced within the group of Dr Deng and enzymatic assays will be developed to test synthetic molecules and our collection of natural products. We will collaborate with pharmaceutical companies after the identification of potent in vitro enzyme inhibitors.

The student will be closely supervised and receive appropriate training in medicinal chemistry, molecular modelling, organic/peptide chemistry, analytical techniques, and molecular biology.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain, a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemistry along with experience in organic synthesis and/or medicinal chemistry or pharmacy.

Formal applications can be completed online:

• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry

• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor

• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding

• State the exact project title on the application form

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)

• Detailed CV, Personal Statement/Motivation Letter and Intended source of funding

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr L Trembleau ([Email Address Removed]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

This PhD project has no funding attached and is therefore available to students (UK/International) who are able to seek their own funding or sponsorship. There are Additional Research Costs of £6,000 per annum attached to this project. These are in addition to tuition fees and living expenses. Supervisors will not be able to respond to requests to source funding. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting


1. K. Fan et al “Biosynthesis, Purification, and Substrate Specificity of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 3C-like Proteinase” J. Biol. Chem. 2004, 279, 1637-1642.
2. K. Yunjeong et al “Broad-Spectrum Antivirals against 3C or 3C-Like Proteases of Picornaviruses, Noroviruses, and Coronaviruses” J. Vir. 2012, 86, 11754-11762.
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