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At the DDU our business model is flexible. Our services are available via research collaboration, partnership or on more commercial terms. Contact us to discuss the best solution for you.

  • Fragment Screening
  • Small Molecule Screening
  • Medicinal Chemistry & Computational Chemistry
  • DMPK
  • Protein Production
  • NMR

Fragment Screening

The DDU’s fragment library of >1000 compounds represent diverse structures and comply with Astex’s “Rule of Three”.  Compounds have been selected by our expert medicinal chemists as ideal starting points for medicinal chemistry programmes. Further compounds have been added to the fragment set through further purchases and selected synthesis.

We continue to monitor technology development and assess options for high throughput fragment screening methods which will enable us to screen 3,000 - 5,000 fragments quickly cost effectively, to carry out ligandability assessments of targets and identify start points for drug discovery programmes.

The recent purchase of a cryoprobe with 19F-NMR capabilities will allow us to expand our range of hit discovery capabilities.  To exploit this method we are compiling a high quality, fluorine containing fragment set.

Small Molecule Screening

The DDU’s Hit Discovery facilities comprise purpose-designed laboratories with industry standard equipment and software which enable medium to high throughput screening of biochemical and cell-based assays in 96-well and 384-well format using a variety of assay platforms.

Our screening campaigns are underpinned by high quality screening sets. These largely bespoke compound libraries are selected carefully from multiple suppliers. They include:

  • a diverse set  of 75,000 compounds;
  • focused sets
    • kinase: 6,500 compounds
    • protease: 3,400 compounds
    • phosphatase: 1,500 compounds
    • nuclear hormone receptor: 2,500 compounds
    • ion channels: 3,200 compounds
    • epigenetic modifier: 2,600 compounds
  • a chemogenomics set
  • a fragment set (1,200 compounds)
  • the Dharmacon genome-wide siRNAi screening collection

Medicinal Chemistry & Computational Chemistry

The DDU currently hosts around 30 medicinal chemists in an industry-standard infrastructure for efficient compound design, in silico profiling and synthesis of hit- and lead-like compounds that address project and Therapeutic Product Profile requirements. We work with partners to develop new compounds and libraries to accelerate series optimisation.


The DDU can offer a complete range of Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics services. We make use of in silico absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion and toxicity (ADMET) models and have implemented a range of industry standard in vitro and in vivo assays coupled with state of the art UPLC-MS/MS technology.

Available in vitro assays include:

  • Measurement of physicochemical properties such as pKa and LogP
  • Assessment of metabolic stability (intrinsic clearance) using liver microsomes, hepatocytes or cytosol from preclinical species and human liver
  • Evaluation of drug-drug interaction and bioactivation risk using recombinant enzymes or human liver microsomes to evaluate P450 inhibition, metabolism dependent inhibition, glutathione trapping
  • Reaction phenotyping to give a preliminary understanding of the enzymology of metabolism of a new compound
  • Prediction of aqueous and simulated gastric fluid (SGF) solubility using nephelometry
  • Determination of compound stability in different matrices (blood, SGF, buffer etc.)
  • Plasma protein and brain tissue binding determination using equilibrium dialysis in a 96-well format

Together with these in vitro assays, we routinely perform a range of in vivo pharmacokinetic and tissue penetration studies in mice or rats, including more bespoke studies such as hepatic portal vein sampling and osmotic pump implantation. Expertise in serial blood sampling in mice allows a full pharmacokinetic profile to be obtained from a single animal, including within efficacy studies.

Protein Production

As part of the Division of Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery, we also offer a complete protein production service, from construct design to purified product.  Using three different expression systems, E. coli, Pichia pastoris and Baculovirus, we express both intracellular proteins and secreted proteins.


NMR is a powerful tool in the analysis of chemical materials using the interaction of matter with radio waves in a strong magnetic field.

The solution state NMR facility at the University/Drug Discovery Unit offers a professional solution state NMR service for the analysis of samples to both academic and industrial clients.


  • Confirmation of structure and structural elucidation analyses.
  • Quantitative NMR (qNMR) for the content or purity determination of compounds and mixtures.
  • Fragment Screening


1H, 13C, 15N & 19F using a 500 MHz Quad-channel NMR spectrometer equipped with a cryoprobe.

1H, 13C, 19F & 31P using a 500 MHz NMR spectrometer.

These spectrometers are equipped with gradients and are capable of performing the typical experiments required

  • 1D - Standard 1D with/without solvent suppression, DEPT
  • Fragment screening - STD, waterLOGSY, relaxation experiments, 1H-15N HSQC