School of Chemistry

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Michael Webb

Associate Professor

"We are interested in the mechanistic basis for enzyme catalysis and biosynthesis and in the application of organic chemistry to develop tools to investigate these questions."
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Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry

The group focuses on chemical approaches at the interfaces with both biology and medicine.  Its research is underpinned by expertise in areas including synthesis, medicinal chemistry, molecular recognition, mechanistic enzymology, biophysical chemistry and nanoscience.  Much of our research is focused on the development of underpinning chemical methods.  We then apply such underpinning methods both to understand fundamental biological mechanisms, and to develop new ways to treat disease.

Chemical biology

The application of chemical methods to the study of biological problems is a key interest in the group.  Research in this area focuses on:

  • Fundamental studies of recognition and catalysis in biological systems;
  • Discovery and exploitation of chemical probes to elucidate biological mechanisms;
  • Preparation and exploitation of site-specifically modified proteins;
  • New biophysical methods;
  • Directed evolution of proteins with novel function.

Many of these research interests are coordinated through the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology.

Medicinal chemistry

Research activities focus on the discovery and optimisation of bioactive molecules for a wide range of potential therapeutic targets.  Research in this area exploits:

  • Computer-aided design, and subsequent synthesis, of bioactive small molecules;
  • High-throughput screening for hit identification;
  • Medicinal chemistry for hit expansion and hit-to-lead studies;
  • Approaches to the synthesis of structurally-diverse small molecule libraries;
  • Targeted delivery systems with applications in imaging and/or therapeutics;
  • Ultrasensitive assays for disease diagnosis.

Many of these activities and collaborations with biomedical research groups are fostered through the Biomedical Health Research Centre (BHRC).  

PhD positions

The range of PhD projects available is very wide and potential projects can be found on the Project opportunities page, as well as through links from individual staff research pages.  In addition, this group contributes to a taught MSc programmes in Chemical Biology and Drug Design  

We also participate in structured PhD programmes including:

The annual closing date for these schemes is usually in early January.  Applicants should explain clearly their fit with the programme.


The group has superb research facilities that include:

  • Computer cluster dedicated to ligand design;
  • A facility for screening small molecule libraries;
  • A suite dedicated to the high-throughput synthesis of small molecules;
  • Integrated laboratories for chemical biology research.


Access to all major structural biology and biophysical techniques is available through the Astbury Centre.

Links with industry

Links to the pharmaceutical sector are extremely strong, and many projects are undertaken in collaboration with industry.  Our engagement with industry is driven through the University’s Pharmaceutical & Biopharmaceutical Sector Innovation Hub

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