School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Medicinal Chemistry & Chemical Biology

Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Our Research

Medicinal Chemistry is a recognised strength of Newcastle University. We have a track record of successful research, including discovery of drugs that have progressed to clinic.

Our research centres on the following themes:

We focus on rapid development of new treatments for key disease areas through active drug discovery projects and development of new technologies and methods.

The research group leader is Dr. Celine Cano. For general enquiries, please contact her at or feel free to contact any members for more specific enquiries.

Track record

Newcastle discovered the first PARP inhibitors for the treatment of BRCA deficient cancer. This led to the development of rucaparib as a clinically used drug for the treatment of ovarian cancer.

It was discovered and developed in partnership with Agouron-Pfizer. It is now owned by Clovis Oncology.

The compound has recently completed Phase III clinical evaluation. It has been granted priority review status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

As one of four Cancer Research UK Drug Discovery Centres, we currently focus on discovery of the next generation of targeted anti-cancer agents.

New directions

Recent staff additions to the Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology group have brought expertise in:

  • radiochemistry
  • bio-imaging
  • chemical biology
  • computational chemistry

This has added to Newcastle’s capabilities in the development of new technologies, accelerating the process of drug discovery and development.



The academic team work across a number of complementary themes across the Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology research area.

Cancer drug discovery

Newcastle has a strong track record in the discovery of novel targeted therapies for cancer.

We are part of the Drug Discovery Programme of the Northern Institute of Cancer Research (NICR), one of four Cancer Research UK Drug Discovery Centres.

Our research aims to discover new treatments for cancers in areas of unmet clinical need. We use cutting edge drug design and synthesis techniques to develop new ways of addressing challenging protein targets, including:

  • structure-based design
  • fragment-based lead generation
  • cutting-edge organic synthesis
  • automated purification

We collaborate with colleagues in bioscience and structural biology. Our industrial partners facilitate the rapid development of lead molecules for future treatment of cancer. 

Research leaders

Infectious disease drug discovery

We aim to discover and develop new small molecules to treat antibiotic resistant pathogenic bacterial infections.

Many of our molecules of interest are based on natural products derived from bacteria.

We identify new antibiotic natural products using:

  • synthetic organic chemistry
  • synthetic biology
  • molecular biology
  • bioinformatics
  • molecular analysis

We develop these further by understanding the mode of action of these molecules. We then apply these techniques to improve their pharmacokinetic properties for use as future drugs.

We collaborate with colleagues in microbiology, biochemistry, cell biology and analytical chemistry. 

Research leader

New approaches to drug discovery

The academic team works to develop new experimental and computational approaches for drug discovery, to accelerate the discovery of the drugs of the future. These include new approaches to:

  • hit identification through fragment screening and optimisation
  • applications of DNA encoding in drug discovery
  • computational methods for atomistic modelling of drug-protein interactions

Research leaders

Radiochemistry and imaging

We aim to discover new molecules for imaging diseases, such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases both in vitro and in vivo.

We use radiotracers and multi-modality imaging probes which are highly fluorescent, organelle specific and capable of carrying a radionuclide.

We develop radiochemical methods and automated production protocols using multi-step batch and flow chemistry techniques.

Our facilities include:

  • the first dedicated PET radiochemistry laboratory in the region
  • pre-clinical PET-CT scanners
  • clinical PET-CT scanners
  • clinical PET-MR scanners

This allows rapid in vivo evaluation of clinical leads and their translation through pre-clinical development to first-in-man studies.  

Research leaders

Computational drug discovery

We use high-performance computing in combination with experimental methods to:

  • understand the mechanisms of disease
  • accelerate the drug discovery process
  • develop approaches to protein classes

Our research uses a wide range of techniques in our work, but our focus is on the atomistic modelling of biological molecules through:

  • classical molecular dynamics
  • large-scale quantum mechanical simulations
  • structural bioinformatics

One focus of these activities is in new approaches to cancer and diseases of ageing.

Using computation alongside synthetic chemistry, and molecular biology, we investigate the molecular mechanisms that contribute to these age-related conditions.

Research leaders


Our academics working within the Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology research area have strong links across the University and with both industry and academia. These include:

Cancer drug discovery

Infectious disease drug discovery

The isolation, structural characterisation and biological evaluation of new antibiotic natural products are conducted in collaboration with:

New approaches to drug discovery

  • AstraZeneca, are focusing on innovative new approaches to cancer treatment, new methods of hit generation and chemical probe discovery.

Radiochemistry and imaging

Our research in radiotracers and multi-modality imaging probes is conducted in collaboration with:

Computational drug discovery


Publications listed by year.


Our Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology researchers are listed here.

Group leader

Group leader

Dr Celine Cano
Reader in Medicinal Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7060




Dr Agnieszka Bronowska
Senior Lecturer in Computational Medicinal Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 3506

Dr Michael Carroll
Senior Lecturer

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7074

Dr Daniel Cole
UKRI Future Leaders Fellow

Telephone: 0191 208 3614

Dr Michael Hall
Senior Lecturer in Organic and Biological Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7321

Dr Ian Hardcastle
Reader in Medicinal Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6645

Dr Lee Higham
Senior Lecturer and SNES Academic Lead for Employability and Enterprise

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5542

Dr James Knight
Lecturer in Radiochemistry

Dr Kate Madden
NUAcT Fellow: Drug Discovery


Dr Chiara Maniaci
BBSRC Discovery Fellow

Telephone: +44 (0) 2080015

Professor Mike Waring
Professor of Medicinal Chemistry

Telephone: +44 (0)191 208 8591


Research associates

Dr Cinzia Bordoni
Research Associate

Telephone: +44 74623 44582

Dr Suzannah Harnor
Senior Research Associate

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 0011

Duncan Miller
Senior Research Associate

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6913

Dr Jennyfer Goujon-Ricci
Research Associate