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Drug Discovery Initiative

Innovative drug discovery to support better health outcomes
A dynamic and interdisciplinary network that brings together the best people, technologies and tools to enable early stage drug discovery research.

Our initiative focuses on designing and developing innovative tools and techniques to identify novel therapeutic targets, delivery mechanisms, and bioactive molecules with high potential for industry uptake and clinical translation. It is built on collective expertise in drug discovery research from across the University, underpinned by state-of-the-art infrastructure and input from industry and clinical advisory groups.

Through Sydney Analytical, we have a suite of facilities to support and accelerate early-stage drug discovery including:

  • Robotic and automated platforms for many routine processes in the drug discovery pipeline.
  • State-of-the-art vibrational, NMR, EPR, X-ray diffraction and scattering spectrometers. 
  • Protein production and purification facilities for bacterial, insect and mammalian expression systems.
  • A fragment-based drug design platform, including Biacore and other in vitro assays.
  • Expertise and assistance in synchrotron and neutron characterisation and imaging techniques.

Drug Discovery Initiative launch

The Drug Discovery Initiative was officially launched on 10 Septemberlast month at the Charles Perkin Centre. The launch was attended by representatives from across the University, pharmaceutical industry and government, with talks from Professor Hugh Durrant Whyte (NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer), Dr Antonio Penna (Executive Director NSW Health), Lisa Daly (Program Manager Sydney Research), Dr Daniel Grant (CEO MTPConnect), Professor Duncan Ivison (DVC (Research) and Professor Peter Lay (Director Sydney Analytical) 

Translational Innovations seed funding program

Applications are now open for the DDI Translational Innovations seed funding scheme.

This initiative will support up to four innovative and multidisciplinary projects that align with one the DDI’s disease priority areas. Up to $100,000 per project will be available to support research costs for one year. Additional subsidies will be provided by Sydney Analytical to use drug discovery infrastructure for the one-year duration of the project.

  • Instructions to applicants are available here (doc, 33KB) 
  • Submit your application here
  • Applications close on 30 November 2018.

Inaugural Drug Discovery Initiative Fellowship

Applications arefor now open for the inaugural Drug Discovery Initiative Fellowship.

This is a three- year fellowship at level A/B with a focus on the development of small molecule CNS therapeutics.

Applications close on 14 November 2018.

Disease priority areas

While therapies and prognoses for most cancers have improved drastically over the last two decades, there is still huge potential for further improvement through the development of targeted interventions and treatments, and a better understanding of the genetic and molecular mechanisms of cancers. We are working to develop bioactive molecules that enhance the understanding, prevention, and treatment of cancers.

With incidences of drug resistance increasing across many infectious diseases, there is a pressing need to develop new and more effective treatments. Our researchers are working to overcome disease resistance by discovering new targets and lead compounds to tackle diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and fungal infections. 

Regulating the body’s inflammatory responses for treating pain and inflammation have applications in a growing list of disorders. Our research focuses on the identification and validation of novel targets implicated in pain, inflammation and autoimmunity, with potential applications in the understanding and treatment of cancers, central nervous system, metabolic and cardiovascular disorders.

Neurodegenerative and central nervous system disorders such as dementia and systemic pain, are becoming increasingly prevalent with increasing life-spans. We are working to identify targets and develop lead compounds that selectively modulate the central nervous system.

Diseases relating to metabolic and cardiovascular disorder, such as diabetes and obesity, represent a rapidly growing health problem in Australia and globally. Our researchers are pursuing therapeutic leads to target such diseases.


We work closely with the following centres and initiatives across these five disease focus areas: 

Our team

The Drug Discovery Initiative is supported by its team, members, and partners, underpinned by the University of Sydney’s Research Portfolio.

We are a point of contact for internal researchers looking to connect with complementary capability in the area of drug discovery research, or for external stakeholders looking to engage with our researchers.

Academic Director

Professor Michael Kassiou

Executive Officer          

Dr Anna Renfrew

Contact us