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Medicinal Chemistry 4 Team (including Analytical Chemistry)

Professor Swen Hoelder’s team designs and then synthesises molecules that could be used as cancer drugs.

Team leader

Professor Swen Hoelder

Professor Swen Hoelder

Head of Chemistry

Professor Swen Hoelder is the Head of Chemistry and a key member of the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery and applies his medicinal chemistry experience to discover and develop new cancer drugs. He has worked in both academia and industry.

ORCID 0000-0001-8636-1488

Team members

Dr Vassilios Bavetsias

Dr Vassilios Bavetsias is a Senior Staff Scientist in the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London. He works on the design and synthesis of small molecules as cancer therapeutics.

Dr Benjamin Bellenie
Dr Benjamin Bellenie
Senior Staff Scientist ORCID 0000-0001-9987-3079

Following 10 years in the pharmaceutical industry as a medicinal chemist, Dr Bellenie joined the ICR in 2014, where he works with multidisciplinary project teams seeking to discover new cancer treatments. He's interested in exploring new modalities including degraders and compounds that induce protein-protein interactions, and he supervises PhD projects in this area. He organises a drug discovery training programme for ICR scientists, and also teaches a medicinal chemistry course at UCL.

Dr John Caldwell
Dr John Caldwell
Senior Staff Scientist +44 20 8722 4438

I have been at ICR for over 17 years, during which time I have worked on a number of small molecule targeting drug discovery projects. These have ranged from kinases, including AKT, to more recently molecular glue degraders, and invariably involve a strong element of structure based design in their approach.

Giacomo Casale
Giacomo Casale
PhD Student +44 20 3437 6220

I graduated with a BSc in Biochemistry from Imperial College London in 2020. As an undergraduate, I spent a year in the Pintacuda lab at the Very High Field NMR Center (CRMN) in Lyon, France, where I worked on the characterisation of membrane proteins by solid-state NMR. At the ICR, I am working on a collaborative project with Professor Ian Collins and Dr Sebastian Guettler to develop chemical probes to study telomere function.

Dr Jack Cheung
Dr Jack Cheung
Senior Scientific Officer +44 20 3437 6170

Dr Jack Cheung joined the ICR in 2001 as a medicinal chemist. Now a Senior Scientific Officer, his work mainly involves designing and synthesising small molecules as cancer therapeutics. During his time at the ICR, he has contributed to a number of drug discovery projects including HSP90, AKT, CHK1, MPS1 and BCL6.

Dr Nick Cundy
Dr Nick Cundy
Postdoctoral Training Fellow

Dr Nicholas Cundy joined the ICR as a postdoctoral training fellow in February 2021. Previously Nick was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa working on TG2 inhibitors with Prof. Jeffrey Keillor. Nick obtained his MSci from the University of Birmingham and the stayed on to complete a PhD working on mechanistic inhibitors of IDO1 and JAK2 PROTACs with Dr Richard Grainger, Dr Sam Butterworth and Prof. Nicholas Barnes.

Daniella Hares
Daniella Hares
PhD Student

Daniella is a PhD student in both the Medicinal Chemistry 4 and the In-Silico Medicinal Chemistry teams. Her PhD project will look at computational approaches to predict the water networks in the binding sites of proteins and is carried out in collaboration with AstraZeneca as part of the industrial CASE (iCASE) studentship scheme.

Dr Alice Harnden
Dr Alice Harnden
Senior Scientific Officer

Alice joined the ICR in 2019 as a postdoctoral training fellow. She gained her PhD at Durham University synthesising responsive lanthanide complexes for MRI detection. She is currently working on the design and synthesis of both degraders and inhibitors of a transcriptional repressor protein.

Beth Jago
Beth Jago
Scientific Officer +44 20 3437 6838

Beth joined the ICR at the beginning of 2022 as an analytical chemist in the Structural Chemistry team. After obtaining an MSci in Chemistry with a year in industry at the University of Birmingham in 2020, she returned back to Pfizer for a year and a half before joining the ICR. Her work at the ICR focuses on supporting a number of CTU projects providing support with mass spectrometry, chromatography and spectroscopic techniques.

Lauren Knightley
Lauren Knightley
Scientific Officer +44 20 3437 6308

Lauren joined the ICR and the structural chemistry team in August 2022 as an analytical chemist. Lauren obtained a BSc from the University of Kent in Forensic Chemistry having focused on the toxicological analysis of natural and synthetic cannabinoids. Her work focuses on collaborating with medicinal chemists and supporting CTU projects providing expertise in Mass Spectrometry, Chromatography and spectroscopic techniques.

Dr Maggie Liu
Dr Maggie Liu
Senior Scientific Officer

Maggie joined ICR in 2008 as NMR spectroscopist in the Structural Chemistry team after finishing her PhD study. In the past 12 years, apart from NMR, she has built up expertise in a wide range of analytical spectroscopy such as HPLC and MS and develops methods to support chemistry teams. She also expended her research into NMR based drug discovery, set up NMR fragment screening and ligand observed NMR assays for drug discovery projects.

Dr Amin Mirza
Dr Amin Mirza
Head of Structural Chemistry Facility

Amin joined the ICR at the beginning of 2000 after completing his PhD at the University of Bath with the late Prof. J.M.J. Williams. Since 2004 he has led Structural Chemistry in developing mass spectrometry and NMR approaches for CTU projects. He oversees a facility that provides expertise in small molecule characterisations, separations & purifications, physchem properties assay, and protein & ligand interactions.

Pasquale Morese
Pasquale Morese
Postdoctoral Training Fellow

Pasquale joined the ICR in September 2020 as a Postdoctoral Training Fellow. He previously studied chemistry and medicinal chemistry at Newcastle University, followed by a PhD at the Newcastle Centre for Cancer under the supervision of Prof. Mike Waring, focusing on using covalent inhibitors to target tumour cells. He currently works on design and synthesis of molecules as cancer therapeutics.

Barbara Sgorlon
Barbara Sgorlon
Executive Assistant +44 20 8722 4569

I am an EA within the Division of Cancer Therapeutics. I support Professor Swen Hoelder in the role of Head of Chemistry and Team Leader of the Medicinal Chemistry 4 team. I contribute to the team with my expertise in administrative support so that everyone can focus their time and energies on researching innovative solutions for cancer treatment.

Katie Thomas
Katie Thomas
PhD Student +44 20 3437 6781

Katie joined the ICR in 2021 as a PhD student. She previously obtained her Bsc at The University of Sheffield and went on to work as a medicinal chemist at Redx Pharma for a year. She is currently working on converting existing small molecule inhibitors into degraders by identifying structural features that can lead to target degradation.

Justin Warne
Justin Warne
Higher Scientific Officer +44 20 3437 6644

My research area of interest is early stage drug discovery. I have recently started working on the design and synthesis of new inhibitors of HSET in order to interrupt centrosome clustering in cancer cells. Prior to that I spent two interesting years targeting CRBN and assisting in the creation of a library of small molecule protein degraders.