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MSc by Research: Discovery and evaluation of targeted protein degrader probes for central nervous system disease research

   School of Life Sciences

  Dr William Farnaby  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

In the UK alone, neurodegenerative diseases will affect 2 million people by 2051, have very limited effective treatments and cost the economy £26.3Bn annually. The proportion of late-stage clinical failures due to lack of efficacy is much higher in central nervous system (CNS) diseases, suggesting pre-clinical therapeutic hypotheses are poorly validated (Kesselheim 2015). The Farnaby group, located in the new University of Dundee Centre for Targeted Protein Degradation, is seeking to use an emerging type of drug modality to provide chemical tools that can help address this challenge. Rather than using molecules that simply inhibit a potential drug target, we will seek to use molecules that can potently and selectively remove target proteins in cellular models of CNS disease by inducing their degradation. This provides a greater chance of reproducing genetic phenotypes, but via the use and with the advantages of small molecules. In cancer, work from ourselves and others has shown a great impact of this approach, both in basic research and in the discovery of ground-breaking new drugs (Mullard, 2021, Kofink, 2022). The chemical tools we are now seeking will illuminate the mechanisms and protein targets that can be addressed in CNS disease with targeted protein degradation.   

Current work within the group is multi-disciplinary with a core focus in medicinal chemistry. There will be scope within this project, depending on the interests of the candidate, to apply organic synthesis/medicinal chemistry to select and make novel targeted protein degraders, cell biology to test the molecules to investigate their ability to degrade a target protein or characterise binding interactions with target proteins using structural biophysics techniques.  

Due to the multi-disciplinary approach the student will learn a broad set of lab skills across the chemical biology toolbox.   

Students interested to learn more about the project are encouraged to reach out at  

Please see our website for further details on the programme:

Life Sciences MSc by Research MSc by Research (Postgraduate) : Study : University of Dundee

Please note before submitting your application that you must list your top three project choices in the Research Proposal section of the application form.

You apply for this course using our Direct Application System. Once you've signed up for an account you'll be asked to search for a course.

To find Life Science MSc by Research you should select the following options:

·      Course type: Research Postgraduate

·      Keyword: Life

When you complete your form, you should include your top 3 project choices, 2 letters of reference, uploaded under "Other Information" > "Supporting documents" and a personal statement. Failure to do so will delay your application.

Please note when submitting an application that we have the following deadline dates throughout the year:

September Starts - Application Deadline 1st May, Interview Date - Late June

January Starts - Application Deadline 1st Sep, Interview Date - Late October

May Starts - Application Deadline 1st Feb, Interview Date Late March


Kesselheim et al, Two decades of new drug development for central nervous system disorders, Nat Rev Drug Discov, 2015; 14, 815–816 doi: 10.1038/nrd4793
Mullard, Targeted Protein Degraders crowd into the clinic, Nat Rev Drug Discov, 2021; 20, 247-250 doi: 10.1038/d41573-021-00052-4
Kofink et al, A selective and orally bioavailable VHL-recruiting PROTAC achieves SMARCA2 degradation in vivo, ChemRxiv 2022, doi: 10.26434/chemrxiv-2022-q63s3
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