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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L015838/1
Title: EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Synthesis for Biology and Medicine
Principal Investigator: Dixon, Professor DJ
Other Investigators:
Smith, Professor MD Schofield, Professor C
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
AstraZeneca UK Limited Defence Science & Tech Lab DSTL Eisai
Evotec (UK) Ltd GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) Neusentis (Pfizer)
Novartis Sumitomo Chemical Group Syngenta
Takeda Cambridge Ltd UCB Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Department: Oxford Chemistry
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Centre for Doctoral Training
Starts: 01 April 2014 Ends: 30 September 2022 Value (£): 4,812,102
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Asymmetric Chemistry Biological & Medicinal Chem.
Chemical Synthetic Methodology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
23 Oct 2013 EPSRC CDT 2013 Interviews Panel N Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form


Modern society is reliant on chemical synthesis for the discovery, development and generation of a wide range of essential products. These include advanced materials and polymers, bulk fine chemicals and fertilizers, and most importantly products that impact on human health and food security such as medicines, drugs, and agrochemicals. Future developments in these areas are benficial for society as a whole and also for a wide range of UK industries. To date it has been common practice for the chemical industry to recruit synthetic chemists after PhD/postdoctoral training and then augment their synthetic knowledge with specific industrial training. Due to the changing nature of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry it is recognized that synthetic chemists require an early understanding of the major challenges and methodologies of biology and medicine. The concept of our SBM CDT arose from the need to address this skills gap without compromising training in chemical synthesis. We have designed a training programme focused on EPSRC priorities to produce internationally outstanding doctoral scientists fluent in cutting edge synthesis, and its application to problems in biology and medicine.

To achieve this, we have formed a genuinely integrated public-private partnership for doctoral training whereby we combine the knowledge and expertise of industrialists into our programme for both training and research. We have forged partnerships with 11 global industrial partners (GSK, UCB, Vertex, Evotec, Eisai, AstraZeneca, Syngenta, Novartis, Takeda, Sumitomo and Pfizer) and a government agency (DSTL), which have offered: (i) financial support (£4.6M cash and £2.4M in-kind); (ii) contributions to taught courses; (iii) research placements; and (iv) management assistance. Our training partners are global leaders in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries and are committed to the discovery, development and manufacture of medicines and agrochemicals for the improvementf human health. To fully exploit the opportunities offered by commercial partners, the SBM Centre will adopt an IP-free model to allow completely unfettered exchange of information, know-how and specific expertise between students and supervisors on different projects and across different industrial companies; this would not be possible under existing studentship arrangements. This free exchange of research data and ideas will generate highly trained and well-balanced researchers capable of world-leading research output, and importantly will enable students to benefit from networks between academic and industrial scientists. This will also facilitate interactions between different industrial and government groups, leading to links between pharmaceutical and agrochemical scientists (for example). The one supervisor - one student model, typical of current studentship programmes, is unable to address significant and long-term training and research topics that require a critical mass of multidisciplinary researchers; consequently we propose that substantive research projects will also be cohort-driven. We envisage that this CDT will have a number of training and research foci ('Project Fields') in which synthesis is the unifying core discipline, to enable our public-private partnership to tackle major problems at the chemistry-biology-medicine interface. Our focused research fields are: New Synthetic Methods, 3D Templates for "Lead-Like" Compounds, Functional Probes for Epigenetics, Next Generation Anti-Infectives, Natural Product Chemistry and Tools for Neuroscience.

This doctoral training programme will employ a uniquely integrated academic-industrial training model, producing graduates capable of addressing major challenges in the pharmaceutical/agrochemical industries who will ultimately make a major impact on UK science.

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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk