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Chemistry Research (UoA8)

Who we are

Chemistry at Newcastle University is a thriving discipline of 36 academics with an ambitious vision for the future.

Our interdisciplinary expertise and collaborations drives our research. We often collaborate with disciplines such as the life sciences, materials science, engineering and physics.

This approach aligns with the values of the recently formed School of Natural and Environmental Sciences.

Our aim is to provide more collaborative research opportunities for Chemistry, by integrating it with:

  • agriculture
  • biology
  • environmental Sciences
  • geoscience
  • marine science

This will help us to develop research which we can apply to high priority societal goals.

Research themes

We have high ambitions to become global leaders contributing to health and ageing and medicinal chemistry research. We also want to progress our standing in both chemical biology, and sustainability and energy.

Our researchers work within three main academic groups:

  • medicinal chemistry and chemical biology
  • functional molecules and materials
  • synthesis, structure and reactivity

These academic groups develop five diverse research themes:

  • medicinal chemistry
  • chemical biology
  • bioinspired materials
  • energy materials and catalysis
  • structure and dynamics

Research activities and projects

Major funding bodies support Medicinal Chemistry's drug discovery activities.

The Cancer Research UK Drug Discovery Programme (£5M) and Astex Drug Discovery Alliance (£3M) both contribute to ongoing work. This underpins their success with impact in this area.

Chemical Biology benefits from an ERC Consolidator award (£1.8M). This allows us to explore the applications of natural product-like cyclic peptides.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funded the creation of The North East Centre for Energy Materials (£1.8M).

Many of our academics received prestigious fellowships, including:
  • Royal Society University Research Fellowships
  • UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships
  • ERC starting and Consolidator grants


Our five main research themes interact with each other, other departments, research centres within the university, and external institutions. Our strategy focuses on catalysing impact. We achieve this through increased engagement with three of our Centres of Research Excellence (NUCoREs):

Our impact

Chemistry at Newcastle University delivers meaningful impact. Our real-world successes include:

  • new medicines that revolutionise the treatment of ovarian cancer
  • pioneering the ability to perform remote access crystallography experiments
  • new technologies for energy capture and storage
  • enzymes which promote deep cleaning

Our medicinal chemistry research discovered compounds underpinning the development of the drug Rucaparib. Since 2014, this has had approval for clinical use in ovarian cancer in the USA, Europe and the UK. This provided economic benefits to the value of £217M in 2019.

We can show sustained delivery of impact through drug discovery with two candidates. Both MDM2-p53 inhibitor (Astex Pharmaceuticals) and DNA-PK inhibitor (AstraZeneca) progressed to clinical trials. This represents an unrivalled level of success for an academic drug discovery group of this size.

Research in chemistry has also initiated four spin-out companies, including:

  • NewChem (founded 2002; sales exceed £3M.)
  • BiBerChem (founded 2017)
  • Indicatrix Crystallography Ltd. (founded 2020)
  • NunaBio Ltd. (founded 2021)

Research has also led to the discovery of naturally occurring marine enzymes. Proctor & Gamble, one of our key partners, has incorporated these enzymes into Ariel washing powder.

Our partners

The estate has received £2.5M investment during the REF2021 period reflecting strong growth. Chemistry at Newcastle University benefits from:

  • Helix venture, NU’s £350 million flagship project
  • £58 million Urban Sciences building, which considers energy research in an urban setting.
  • £2 million Drummond Building OnePlanet facility including shared earth sciences resources.
  • The International Centre for Life, a joint venture with the NHS, which includes the Biosphere (90,000 sq. ft of state-of-the-art laboratories) on the Helix site

Culture and values

We focus our research culture on four main pillars:

  • openness
  • multi-disciplinarity
  • collaboration
  • creativity

We follow the Researcher Development Concordat, of which NU became a signatory in 2019.

We encourage focus on the collective performance rather than individual. We achieve this through the process of annual group performance development reviews.

They seek to optimise the performance of the group across all relevant areas.

Chemistry has a strong commitment to EDI and holds an Athena Swan Bronze award. The University has staff groups for disabled, LGBT+ and minority ethnic staff.

Research case studies