The development of new medicines to treat diseases like cancer or inflammatory disorders is dependent on the identification of novel drug targets. Target selection requires an understanding of the functional relevance of a given protein in both physiological and pathophysiological conditions.
Our group combines chemistry and biology to generate small molecule tools, so-called “chemical probes” that enable studying the role of proteins as potential targets for drug discovery. Candidate targets may originate from genetic studies linking the expression or mutation of a selected gene to a particular disease, in vitro genetic screens such as RNA-interference or genome-editing (e.g. CRISPR, TALEN), compounds identified in phenotypic assays or drugs already in use.
To identify, explore and validate targets the Chemical Biology group uses a variety of different discovery approaches such as small molecule screens, biochemical assays, protein X-ray crystallography, chemical and protein-protein interaction proteomics, medicinal chemistry, RNAi as well as genome-editing alongside classical molecular and cellular biology techniques aiming at the development of new molecules that may provide leads for drug discovery.
Dr Laura Diaz Saez completed her Biochemistry degree at the Autonomous University of Madrid and obtained her PhD from the University of Dundee working on the assessment of potential antibacterial drug targets. She joined the Huber lab to work on the structural and biochemical characterisation of novel targets involved in cancer and inflammatory disorders.
Originally from Swansea in Wales, Dr Andrew Lewis graduated with his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2013 under the supervision of Prof Shankar Balasubramanian. During his PhD he worked on the synthesis and biological understanding of quinone containing natural products and their use as anticancer agents. Prior to this, Andrew read Natural Sciences at St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge completing his MSc with Prof Steven Ley working on the synthesis of novel hydrogen bond organocatalysts. From 2013 to 2016 Andrew worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto with Prof Patrick Gunning working on the design and synthesis of protein-protein interaction inhibitors and using chemical biological techniques to understand their mode of action. In 2016 Andrew joined the Huber group at the Target Discovery Institute where his current research involves the use of chemical biology and chemoproteomic techniques to identify novel drug targets for multiple myeloma.
Dr Kathryn Pugh completed her Mchem in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Leicester (UK) in 2009, where she completed her Masters project in the Glenn Burley group working on the preparation of DNA binding polyamides. From 2009 to 2013 she undertook a PhD in Chemical Biology at the University of Leicester (UK) in the labs of Prof Paul Cullis, Dr Glenn Burley (University of Strathclyde) and Prof Andrew Tobin. During this she studied kinases of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) to provide insight for new drug targets. In January 2014 Kathryn joined the Target Discovery Institute in the group of Prof Paul Brennan to develop chemoproteomic assays for the examination of interactions between small molecules and proteins. During this time she also worked on the quantification of modified nucleosides by LC-MS/MS with Prof Benedikt Kessler.
Dr Cynthia Tallant did her degree in Chemistry at the University Autonoma of Barcelona and obtained her PhD in Structural Biology and Enzymology at the IBMB-CSIC Science Park of Barcelona working on zinc metalloproteases. Cynthia has developed her career as a research scientist in the UK for more than four years in Chemical Biology Drug Discovery groups at the University of Cambridge and since 2013 at the SGC-Oxford. Her work comprises the production and characterization of therapeutic proteins or enzymes, biochemical assay screening with compound libraries and structural determination of ligand-bound complexes with epigenetic and kinase targets.
Dr Srikannathasan (Kannan) Velupillai completed his PhD in Structural Biology and Enzymology at the University of St Andrews and University of East Anglia working on the Bordertella pertussis lipopolysachcharide biosynthetic pathway. He then joined the group of Professor James Naismith to investigate Rhamnose biosynthetic pathway enzymes. In 2009, Kannan joined GSK, Stevenage as a Senior Scientist working on the structure and function of a new class of antibacterials funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Wellcome Trust as part of the “Drug Discovery Programme in Relation to Gram Negative Bacteria”. In 2012, Kannan moved back to Dundee University and worked on several projects focussing on the Bacterial Type VI secretion system, Tryptophan metabolic pathway enzymes (Bill Hunter Lab) and IRAK2 (IL-1R-associated kinase (IRAK) family 2) and various kinase projects (Philip Cohen lab). In October 2014, Kannan joined the SGC where his current focus has been on protein production and structural studies of epigenetic drug targets.
Jenny Ward completed her first degree (MChem) in Chemistry at the University of Oxford in 2011, having completed her Masters research in the synthesis and biological evaluation of non-inositol based ligands for the IP3 receptor under the supervision of Dr Stuart Conway. From 2011 to 2016 she undertook an MRes and PhD in Chemical Biology at the ICB-CDT, Imperial College London. Under the supervision of Prof Ed Tate and Prof Eric Lam, her research involved the design and proteomic profiling of activity-based probes for studying cellular ubiquitination machinery. In June 2016 Jenny joined the Huber group at the Target Discovery Institute, where her current research focuses on the chemoproteomic identification of novel drug targets in multiple myeloma.
Dr Sarah Blair-Reid has experience in both academic and industrial research institutes, in the UK and USA. Having completed her PhD in molecular and cellular biology at the University of Birmingham, this was followed by two post-doctoral research assistant positions in the field of DNA damage and repair. Withinthe Huber group Sarah is a Research Assistant in Cellular Biology, involved in the generation of CRISPR mutant cell lines, and carrying out cell based assays.
Paulina Siejka graduated with a Master’s degree in Medical Biotechnology from the Medical University in Lodz (Poland) in 2014. She joined the SGC Chemical Biology group in November 2014 as a Research Assistant.
Ioanna Panagakou completed her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at the University of Crete and then specialized in Biochemistry for her Master thesis. She then moved to the UK to do her PhD in Cell Biology at the University of Edinburgh. In 2016, she joined the Huber group as a lab technician.