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Exploiting druggability host spots in protein phosphatase targets

Project Description

In the past years the use of virtual screening or computer-based screening of compound libraries against selected targets has expanded exponentially the boundaries of drug discovery. Rapid identification of potential lead compounds for important protein targets is an essential part of the current global health agenda to fight many different types of disease. Expanding the portfolio of lead compounds means that more drugs can be advanced through clinical trials and better treatments will be possible in the near future.

The success of computer-based approaches (molecular docking, genetic algorithms) provides now a number of tools that can be combined to produce high performance/high speed selection of suitable compounds for further experimental testing and functional validation. Protein phosphatases are an important family of enzymes involved in cancer, neurological diseases and diabetes. However, no drugs are yet available that target these enzymes.

We will use computational-based approaches to identify new druggable sites in protein phosphatases and then we will evaluate potential binding ligands to generate starting points for further drug development. The project will involve the use of several software packages, organic synthesis, structural analysis and enzymatic assays. This is part of a systems biology programme ongoing in the laboratory.

This multidisciplinary project brings together expertise in medicinal chemistry (Butterworth), structure-based drug design and enzyme kinetics (Tabernero), and organic chemistry (Procter) to provide new alternative to target an important family of enzymes. The successful student will benefit from a diverse and enriching environment and will be trained in a number of key core skills in computational chemical biology, synthetic and medicinal chemistry, structural analysis and biochemical assays. These skills will provide the student with a competitive advantage for future professional jobs in academia or industry and to become a research leader.

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in Computational Sciences, Organic Chemistry or Biochemistry. Candidates with experience in Computational/Medicinal Chemistry or Structural Biology are particularly encouraged to apply.

Funding Notes

This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (View Website). For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (View Website).

Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.


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Zhang Z et al., Bioinformatics (2011), 27: 2083–2088.
Huang B. OMICS, 2009, 13: 325-330.

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