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The Drug Discovery Unit was established in 2006 to translate world-class biology research in to new de-risked targets and candidate drugs.

The initial focus was on Diseases of the Developing World, in which the University has an outstanding international reputation.

Our Innovative Targets Portfolio (ITP) can accept high quality, commercially viable projects in any therapeutic area as long as the approach is novel, the project addresses unmet medical need and the pathway to the clinic is clear. 

We are also developing an Antibacterial Drug Discovery Accelerator working in collaboration with senior investiagtors across the UK and beyond to create a step-change in the discovery of new antimicrobial drugs.

We seek to identify novel therapeutic targets and mechanisms of disease and aim to deliver pharmacological lead compounds with supporting data in an animal and/or tissue model of disease.

Our strategy taps into a wealth of world-class academic research that is of tremendous industry interest in the current market but has, until recently, remained untranslated.

We are housed within purpose built facilities at the University of Dundee School of Life Sciences.

Strategic Vision

The strategic vision of the DDU is to build on our position as a major centre of University-based drug discovery in the UK. We seek to expand our current interactions with academic and pharmaceutical partners in order to deliver a strong link between basic research and biopharmaceutical industry drug discovery and development.

We already have worldwide recognition as a centre of excellence; our aim is to be the drug discovery partner of choice for academic institutions, biopharmaceutical companies and funding bodies. Our mission is to make the translation of life sciences research into therapeutic applications more efficient and successful, so that areas of unmet need can be better addressed. Our objectives are simple: to turn basic biomedical research into candidate medicines and to exploit more fully the potential of unexplored therapeutic targets and untried scientific techniques.

Guiding Principles

The DDU is guided by five core principles. These have served us well since our establishment in 2006 and helped us carve out a unique role:
Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do. We are open to excellent innovative ideas from anyone, anywhere. We always strive to use the best ideas, skills and technologies available, wherever they are.

We work to internationally recognised pharmaceutical industry standards and best practice.

We have all the in-house expertise and infrastructure required for early-stage drug discovery together with an integrated management structure which facilitates decision-making, debate and effective team working across disciplines.

Our work is underpinned by dynamic, goal-driven multi-disciplinary project management based on clearly defined Target Product Profiles and Compound Progression Criteria.
We adopt a portfolio-based approach. This permits flexibility and allows us to add, adapt and end projects as necessary in order to make best use of the resources available


The DDU was established in 2006 with support from multiple funders, including the University of Dundee.  Infrastructure funding has come mainly from the Scottish Funding Council, the Wellcome Trust, the European Regional Development Fund, the Wolfson Foundation, Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance and ITI Life Sciences Scotland.

Project based funding has come from the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council (MRC), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Scottish Funding Council, among others.