The research area of Drug Innovation is best described by the multidisciplinary collaboration of chemists, biologists, pharmacists, biomedical and clinical scientists, in order to translate scientific hypotheses to products for care, cure and prevention of diseases. We aim to perform ground breaking, exploratory research in areas, which are the supports of drug innovation: disease targets, bio-active molecules, drug targeting and action and evaluation. This will ultimately lead to the molecules, methods, concepts and approaches, which are so indispensable for the successful outcome of drug development in the pharmaceutical industry and medicines used in society.
The focus is shifting to the high hanging fruit of peptides, proteins, nucleotides and even more advanced medical products like (stem) cells. These Future Medicines offer major scientific challenges for translation. For example, the key success factor for gene therapy and exon skipping is successful delivery to cells.
Associated research groups
Almost all PhD candidates are working in one of the research groups of the Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS). The research of UIPS is ideally positioned in the Faculty of Science to work on basic scientific problems and to translate new findings into potential solutions to urgent societal medical needs, which are addressed in the Faculties of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. This field is growing rapidly due to developments in Technology.
The five research groups of UIPS (see figure) have their different specialties. The Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery group makes mimics of proteins, carbohydrates and peptides. The Pharmaceutics group targets proteins and genes to cells and innovates the regulation of biotech products. The Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics group excels in proteomics of stem cells, biomarkers and glycoprotein analysis. The Pharmacology group focuses on immune and microbiome modulation by medical nutrition, but also on regenerative medicine and organ-on-a-chip technology. The Pharmacoepidemiology and Clinical Pharmacology group was involved with regulation of the first approved gene therapy in the world and is responsible for clinical use of advanced medical therapies. All groups offer courses in the training programme.
Profile of prospective PhD candidates
The PhD programme is open to candidates having a Dutch or equivalent international MSc in Life Sciences (e.g. Pharmaceutical, Chemical or Biomedical Sciences). Depending on the research project the PhD student is entering, he/she should have the required theoretical and lab-skill background. PhD candidates should be team-players with good communication skills, should have a high degree of achievement drive and initiative and should have a good knowledge of English (both writing and speaking). Candidates either have their own funding/scholarship or they apply to a job opening on the UU website.
Mission of the training programme
The research projects of the PhD students are focused on interdisciplinary research in the field of innovation and usage of drugs, biologicals and diagnostics. The underlying philosophy is a cyclic approach of starting with the disease; applying top chemistry to bring active molecules into a sequence of molecular and cellular characterization; developing delivery options; administering the drug within a clinical setting and to the population; and finally looping back real life experiences with medicines again into the discovery and development process. The focus of our programme is Future Drugs: advanced and affordable biomolecular and cellular therapies. We can think of therapies based on proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, fatty acids, synthetic vaccines, immune cells, stem cells and bacteria. Translational research is, in this context, of vital importance to bring concepts from a molecular level to human use.