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Portfolio Leader: Coronavirus Portfolio in the Drug Discovery Unit

Drug Discovery Unit
Dundee, UK
Closing date
31 Dec 2021
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Portfolio Leader: Coronavirus Portfolio in the Drug Discovery Unit

The Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) is passionate about tackling unmet medical need for globally important neglected and emerging infectious diseases (including TB, malaria, coronaviruses), that kill millions of people across the world every year and damage the economies of many countries.

The DDU is a fully integrated “Biotech style” drug discovery organisation with cutting edge facilities ( We work to BioPharma philosophy and standards, incorporating dynamic, goal driven project management based on Target Product Profiles and Compound Selection Criteria. Our team of 130 scientists, has extensive experience of all aspects of drug discovery gained within the BioPharma industry. Our rare skill set within a university enables us to work with major BioPharma and technology companies and world-class Life Sciences research partners, to improve how high quality drug discovery is carried out for these diseases, to deliver and develop much needed safe and affordable drugs.

We have an exciting opportunity for an enthusiastic and expert medicinal chemist to lead our coronavirus drug discovery programme. Prior experience of anti-viral drug discovery is not essential; however, you will need to develop an understanding of the biology of coronavirus, the current treatments, and the drug discovery landscape around the disease.

Our programme, as an Associated Partner, is part of the EU IMI, Corona accelerated R&D in Europe (CARE), a multi-partner consortium of Pharma companies, SMEs and academic groups. Our shared goal with CARE is to deliver treatments for the current COVID-19 pandemic as well as future coronavirus outbreaks.

The position, offers you an opportunity to:

  • Grow your expertise and track record through having a key role in delivering drug candidates that seek to stop future global emergences
  • Work with multiple partners to identify drug discovery best practice and new approaches
  • Develop your collaboration building and management skills, widening your global scientific presence and contacts
  • Contribute more broadly to the DDU through wider leadership activities, helping to drive innovation and best practice within the drug discovery approaches of a world-leading university-based drug discovery group.
  • Continue your personal leadership development through participation in the DDU career development programme.

As Portfolio Leader, you will use your scientific and organisational "know-how" to:

  • Deliver candidates for pre-clinical development by leading the programme’s science and setting strategy
  • Lead and drive interactions between the programme’s medicinal chemists, biologists, computational chemist and DMPK experts within the DDU team, and our broad range of collaborations (industry and academia)
  • Progress our portfolio of structure-based, computational chemistry driven hit and lead optimisation projects against key coronavirus drug targets

The role also includes:

  • Driving team performance against its goals, deliverables and timelines
  • Overseeing access to in vitro assays; secondary/ functional studies; in vitro toxicological screening; chemistry outsourcing and animal models of disease required to support progression of a portfolio of small molecule drug discovery projects
  • Direct line management including setting goals and deliverables; carrying out appraisals; ensuring appropriate training
  • Reporting on progress both internally, and to collaborators and funding agencies
  • With the DDU’s Finance Officer, monitor spending and assign resources as required by the programme
  • Attend quarterly review meetings from other teams within the DDU and contribute ideas and suggestions where appropriate

Required attributes include:

  • Candidates must be professionally qualified with a BSc or PhD in a chemical science related discipline with demonstrable expertise in medicinal and synthetic chemistry design
  • Understanding and appreciation of the drug discovery process, including the interactions between biology, drug metabolism & pharmacokinetics, computational & medicinal and chemistry structural biology
  • Substantial experience of leading successful medicinal chemistry projects in the BioPharma industry or a professional drug discovery environment
  • Evidence of key role taking a project(s) through lead optimization to preclinical candidate selection
  • Strong interpersonal, communication and presentation skills
  • Demonstrable experience of leadership of multi-disciplinary teams
  • Demonstrable experience of successful working with collaborators and/or in consortiums
  • Excellent time management, organisational and communication skills
  • A demonstrable ability to work flexibly and to meet project milestones

The post is available immediately with an open-ended contract. Salary will depend on experience. The role has been evaluated at grade 9 with the opportunity to provide a market supplement commensurate with experience. The Drug Discovery Unit operates on an external funding basis. The Principal Investigators within these units are highly successful in securing external funding for their multi-disciplinary and highly collaborative research and activities. As a University we are currently exploring more flexible working options with our staff and for this specific role we are open to discussing the possibility of remote working within the UK as appropriate.

Facilities and Environment:

Established for over 15 years, The Drug Discovery Unit (DDU), School of Life Sciences ( is a rare, university-based, fully integrated, Biotech-style drug discovery operation with an annual turnover of ~£12M and 130 dedicated scientists, many with a Biotech/Pharma background. The DDU’s remit is to complement Biotech/Pharma activities by tackling early-stage small molecule drug discovery across a range of therapeutic areas. The DDU has leading scientists, state-of-the-art technologies, purpose built laboratories, and key therapeutic expertise in a range of diseases. The DDU develops first-in-class differentiated therapeutics and collaborates with many of the world's top pharmaceutical companies. Our outputs include new drug candidates and validated novel drug targets for major infectious diseases, e.g. leishmaniasis, malaria and TB, as well as cancer and neurodegeneration. The DDU has also contributed to the establishment of 7 new companies.

The DDU is part of the Wellcome Centre for Anti-infectives Research (WCAIR. ). There is a very interactive and open culture amongst WCAIR’s 180 scientists, with many collaborations between the different groups. There are also many opportunities for sharing and exchanging ideas such as weekly seminars, pizza lunches, 6-monthly symposia and an annual retreat.

WCAIR and the DDU are embedded in the School of Life Sciences which has been consistently rated ‘5-star’ by the UK national Research Assessment Exercise. Dundee has twice been named ‘the best place to work in Europe’ in a poll of scientists conducted by The Scientist magazine. You can go on a virtual visit of our labs ( and further details for School of Life Sciences facilities ( and support for staff ( . As an internationally diverse institution, we welcome job applicants from all countries and nationalities. The School of Life Sciences is proud to employ staff from over 40 different nations.

As an internationally diverse institution, we welcome job applicants from all countries and nationalities. The School of Life Sciences is proud to employ staff from over 40 different nations.

The diversity of our staff and students helps to make the University of Dundee a UK university of choice for undergraduate, postgraduate and distance learning. Family friendly policies, staff networks for BME, Disabled and LGBT staff, membership of Athena SWAN, the ECU Race Equality Charter and Stonewall as well a full range of disability services, create an enjoyable and inclusive place to work.

Dundee lies in an area of outstanding natural beauty, including large sandy beaches and the Scottish Highlands less than an hour away. The city has lots to offer with fantastic attractions such as the striking V&A Dundee, the Dundee Rep, Dundee Contemporary Arts and more. Read more about the rewarding work and life environment in Dundee. Read more about the rewarding work and life environment in Dundee (


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.

Find Us
School of Life Sciences
University of Dundee
Dow Street
United Kingdom
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