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Natural product-inspired fragments

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description


Key words: drug discovery; natural products; medicinal chemistry

Motivated international and New Zealand-based candidates are invited to apply for a PhD Scholarship to investigate the synthesis and biological evaluation of a natural product-inspired fragment collection.

Fragments are small molecules that are screened for binding against biomedicinally-important targets using biophysical techniques (e.g. X-ray, NMR). Fragment hits often form high-quality interactions with targets that can be maintained as they are developed toward lead compounds. >40 compounds derived from fragments have entered clinical trials, and two drugs have been approved. Traditional fragments are generally flat, aromatic compounds, but in stark contrast, natural products are often incredibly complicated, having, amongst other features, diverse frameworks and shapes, high heteroatom content, and stereochemical complexity. We seek to systematically investigate the value of natural product-inspired small molecules in fragment-based drug discovery.

The project will be based in the brand new research laboratories of the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand (https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/science/schools-and-departments/phys-chem/) and will be supervised by Dr Daniel Foley (https://foleynz.wixsite.com/foleylab; https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/science/contact-us/people/daniel-foley.html). The project primarily concerns the design, chemical synthesis, purification and characterisation of natural product-inspired small molecules.

Candidates must hold a BSc (Hons) or Masters in chemistry (or a suitably related discipline), will have completed a practical multi-step organic chemistry project, and will have a particular interest in using synthetic organic chemistry to solve problems relating to drug discovery, understanding biology, and/or solving environmental challenges.

To apply, please contact Dr Foley (). Your application should include:

1. A covering letter, detailing your research background and interest in the project.

2. Your full CV, detailing your academic qualifications, and contact details for at least two academic/industrial referees.

3. Your academic transcripts and, if necessary, an English language proficiency document.

Funding Notes


Applicants must have a GPA >8.0, be eligible for admission to the PhD programme at the University of Canterbury, and need to apply for and be awarded a UC Doctoral Scholarship (View Website).

The UC Doctoral Scholarship provides tuition fees and a tax-free personal allowance of NZD$21,000 pa for three years. Note that annually there are two rounds to apply for a UC Doctoral Scholarship, which close in March and October respectively.

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