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PhD Studentship in Computational Chemical Biology Applied to the Design of Compound Libraries -

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  • Full or part time
    Dr W Pitt
    Prof D Spring
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

BBSRC Industrial CASE Award

UCB in collaboration with the University of Cambridge Chemistry Department and the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre

Project: Define the boundaries and size of the biologically relevant chemical space as a function of molecular complexity and design a compound library that covers this space.

Supervisors: Dr Will Pitt (UCB), Professor David Spring (Cambridge), Dr Alicia Higueruelo (CCDC)

This 4 year PhD research project, ideally starting Oct-Dec 2016, will be a collaboration between the University of Cambridge, the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (, and the pharmaceutical company UCB Pharma ( The doctoral student will be formally based at CCDC but will also spend time in the group of Professor Spring ( and have a placement of at least three months at UCB, Slough UK. The successful student will be awarded a doctorate from the University of Cambridge.

It is well known that many drug molecules bind to, and are active against, multiple protein targets. Recent studies ([1] and the references therein) suggest that this promiscuous behaviour is a consequence of the finite number of protein pocket shapes. Furthermore, ligands for most protein targets can be found by biophysical screening of only a few thousand fragments. The aim of this project is to develop methods to assess the size and make-up of a chemical library of larger, lead-like molecules that could deliver hits to any given folded protein target. The collaboration between the Spring group, pioneers in diversity oriented synthesis (DOS), with the CCDC, the world leader in molecular recognition and structural chemistry, offers an excellent foundation to tackle this project.

The studentship offers the opportunity for a gifted individual to work on a problem of great significance, supported by scientific groups of world standing. The candidate should have a first or upper second Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry, chemistry, physics or a similar discipline. A familiarity with molecular modelling, or computer programming ability, would be useful additional experience. You will gain experience in a wide variety of chemical and computational drug-design methods, database searching tools, and statistical analysis methodology in a discipline which is of direct relevance to the pharmaceutical industries.

The 4-year project is fully funded by UCB and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). To be eligible for a full award, applicants must satisfy UK residency and qualifications criteria (see

UCB is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of innovative medicines and solutions to transform the lives of people living with severe diseases of the immune system or of the central nervous system.

Applications, including a full CV with two referees and covering letter, should be addressed to Maggie Brown, HR Manager, CCDC, 12 Union Road, Cambridge CB2 1EZ or via email to [Email Address Removed] to arrive no later than Monday 29th February 2016.


[1] Skolnick, J. et al. Implications of the small number of distinct ligand binding pockets in proteins for drug discovery, evolution and biochemical function. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters 25, 1163-1170 (2015). doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2015.01.059

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