School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Kate Madden

NUAcT Fellow: Drug Discovery



Kate (Katrina) Madden is a Newcastle University Academic Track Fellow in Drug Discovery, within the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences. Her research interests centre on drug discovery for fine control of the immune system, particularly in neurological diseases. This work is interdisciplinary, combining medicinal chemistry and in vitro cell biology, and also involves working within the Faculty of Medical Sciences. The goal of her fellowship is to provide the foundations for new drug discovery programmes in neurodegenerative disease which translate to bringing real benefit to patients.

Before taking up this post Kate held Postdoctoral Research Associate posts at the University of Oxford, where she worked on drug discovery programmes in neurodegenerative disease and acute myeloid leukaemia, in addition to helping to establish new enzyme-based chemical synthesis methods for medicinal chemistry. She also held a Part-Time Stipendiary Lectureship in Organic Chemistry at Jesus College, University of Oxford.


PhD, Synthesis of Polyene Natural Products, Durham University, supervisor Professor Andy Whiting, 2017

MChem with Industrial Experience, Durham University and AstraZeneca R&D Oncology, 2013


Research within the group aims to evaluate the potential of different approaches to drugging the immune system in the brain. We do this by assessing the effect of small molecules on specific protein targets (target-based drug discovery), and on whole cells (phenotypic drug discovery). We are currently studying the potential to drug one specific immune cell type in the brain, microglia. These cells are part of the innate immune system, acting as messengers to control the body's immune response, and play a key role in triggering and resolving inflammation. It is our hope that by achieving fine control over their function we can tune the behaviour of the immune system into the most beneficial role for treating neurodegenerative and neurological diseases. Our research projects are aligned with this central goal:

Small molecules to inhibit interferon signalling in neuroinflammatory disease

This project aims to reduce the body's reaction to the inflammatory chemical interferon, with the hoping of treating neurological conditions with an inflammatory component. There are specific 'interferonopathies' which present with neurodegeneration which we hope to treat. In addition, increasing evidence is suggesting that interferon signalling plays a key role in neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 

Collaborations: Dr Christopher Duncan (Newcastle University), Professor Sophie Hambleton (Newcastle University), Dr Catherine Adamson (University of St Andrews)

New ways to target complement with small molecules in the brain

This project aims to develop new disrupters of the complement pathway by targeting specific protein-protein interactions with small molecules that possess good properties for passing through the blood-brain barrier. By doing this, we hope to reduce excessive inflammation and neurodegeneration in the brain.

Collaborations: Dr Agnieszka Bronowska (Newcastle University), Professor Claire Harris (Newcastle University)

Understanding and harnessing the effect of anti-inflammatory small molecules on microglial phenotype

This project aims to understand more about known anti-inflammatory compounds, linking the overall effect on neuroinflammation with an exact microglial phenotype that we can then target in future drug discovery programmes. We aim to generate robust chemical tools, and identify new molecular targets for neurodegenerative disease.

Collaborations: Dr Ian Wood (University of Leeds)