Our drug discovery science

Image of high throughput screening machine pipetting 96 well plate

Our drug discovery organisation is designed with innovation at its heart. We work with researchers and industry to identify and advance novel approaches with the potential to deliver the next generation of cancer medicines.


Our expertise & capabilities

Our 200-strong team of passionate and creative scientists has expertise and capabilities in translating early concepts to patient benefit, encompassing deep cancer biology knowledge and extensive drug discovery experience.

Through our alliance model, we align these key skills with internationally competitive academic research and industry partners' development capabilities to maximise cancer patient benefit.

Lab machinery

Target identification, validation & disease positioning

We aim to align targets with a clearly defined clinical position as early as possible.

We place great value on close interactions with expert academic biologists and originating PIs, and our deep cancer biology expertise supports each project from inception through to the clinic.

Our experimental capabilities include:

  • CRISPR screening to identify novel targets, and to better understand mechanisms of action
  • A world-class human immunology platform
  • Evaluating phenotypic effects and identification of potential pharmacodynamic (PD) biomarkers in relevant cellular models, including organoids and patient-derived tissue explants
96 well plate

Hit discovery

We drive project progression from early hit identification through to detailed mechanism-of-action studies.

We initiate our drug discovery projects with a deep characterisation of potential targets at the molecular and cellular level, incorporating mechanistic enzymology, biophysics, structural biology, and quantitative cell biology, to build a comprehensive understanding of the most appropriate mechanism to target.

We have deep expertise in small molecule and antibody approaches, and specific strengths in HTS and fragment-based drug discovery, with a clear focus on profiling against the most physiologically-relevant endpoint possible.

After hit-finding, detailed mechanism-of-action and structural studies direct our selection of the most appropriate molecules (or other modalities) to progress.

Scientist labelling Eppendorf tubes

Hit-to-candidate optimisation

We use our experience in mechanistic pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, DMPK and in vivo cancer models to progress our projects towards efficacy studies.

Our medicinal chemists, pharmacologists and DMPK scientists work closely to drive the DMTA (design, make, test, analyse) cycle, combining computational chemistry, structural insights, analysis of SAR biology and drug-target kinetics, together with synthetic chemistry and ADME profiling. The Cancer Research UK network supports project progression with a range of disease-relevant in vivo models.

We have parallel capabilities for progressing biologics, including via our partnership with Abcam

As we move projects closer to the clinic, we work closely with mechanistic PK/PD modelling colleagues to inform in vivo dose predictions.

Scientists looking at results

Fast-tracking breakthroughs to clinical trials

We work closely with Cancer Research UK's Centre for Drug Development to provide clinical capabilities to develop your therapeutic innovation into breakthrough cancer medicines.

Job opportunities in therapeutic innovation