Using light to speed up medicine development

GSK and the
University of Oxford

Tanya is working to use light to produce a molecule at the heart of important medical treatments more quickly.

Tertiary amines are a type of molecule found in many kinds of drugs, from cancer-fighting treatments to antihistamines. Traditional methods of creating this molecule can however be harmful to the environment, and challenging to produce in large quantities.

Tanya aims to develop a new synthetic chemical tool that uses light to develop it more efficiently. This method – similar to photosynthesis – is designed to make the molecules more quickly, and at an industrial scale, helping pharmaceutical companies to develop the dependant medicine in larger volumes and at a faster rate.

The method of using a photocatalyst and blue light has been the subject of studies within the academic field for a few years. Tanya’s challenge is to mature this academic exercise into a methodology that can have real commercial applications and the concurrent society benefits. She plans to execute this project through close collaboration between GSK and a number of academic and commercial partners, ensuring each party’s challenges are understood and taken on board.

Tanya obtained her Hons. BSc. in Chemistry at the University of Toronto before commencing her DPhil in Synthesis for Biology and Medicine (EPSRC) at the Chemistry Department in the University of Oxford. The Industrial Fellowship programme will help her to build links between academia and industry, enabling her to apply her research in close partnership with leading pharmaceutical companies and have an impact on society.

"There was an element of disbelief when I first learned I had been accepted onto the programme. I’m incredibly proud and grateful for the opportunity and excited to begin research.”