Main Content

£6.5 million investment in Dundee's Drug Discovery Unit will tackle unmet medical needs through small molecule drug discovery, bridging the gap between academic scientific research and commercial drug discovery and development.

The University of Dundee is one of the largest and most productive life sciences research institutes in Europe, and is the only university  in the UK to have a fully integrated drug discovery group working across multiple diseases. 

In May 2013, Dundee University's Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) was awarded a £6.5 million five-year project by Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to boost the development of new drugs to treat diseases prevalent in the developing world.

The DDU will establish 'A Centre of Excellence for Lead Optimisation for Diseases of the Developing World' to address the urgent need for drug development for infectious diseases such as African sleeping sickness, TB and malaria, which kill thousands each year.

The project will address the shortage of potential drugs making it to the lead optimisation stage of molecules targeting these diseases. 

This is a labour intensive but key stage in the drug discovery process, where early leads are improved through cycles of design, synthesis and testing to identify potential drugs that are suitable for testing in a clinical setting.

University of Dundee researcher Professor Paul Wyatt said: 

"One of the main aims of the Drug Discovery Unit is to make inroads into developing drugs for diseases that affect the developing world. We have the capability through the DDU to help break the bottleneck which occurs at a key stage of the drug discovery process."

Researchers will focus on TB, the world's second-leading infectious killer, and will identify a portfolio of TB lead optimisation projects through the DDU's involvement with the existing global HIT-TB consortium and the TB Drug Accelerator Program.  

The long-term treatment regimen currently used for TB contributes to high treatment default rates, which can lead to increased disease transmission, drug resistance and death.

In 2010, TB caused 1.4 million deaths in the developing world: 8.8 million new infections and 450,000 drug-resistant TB cases.

Dr Richard Seabrook, Wellcome Trust's Head of Business Development, said:

"We are pleased to be co-funding with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on this exciting UK project, bringing together internationally renowned experts in the biology of infectious diseases with a first-class drug discovery unit to tackle some of the world's most profound medical needs."