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About us2019-05-23T13:49:26+01:00

Our history

Vernalis Research is based at Granta Park in Cambridge, UK. Here is a brief summary of our evolution and successes.

2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2001
2000
1997

2018

  • Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: LGND) acquired Vernalis plc. Vernalis Research now operates as a subsidiary of Ligand Holdings UK Ltd, wholly owned by Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
  • Success milestones achieved under drug discovery collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo on two undisclosed oncology targets
  • Achieved third success milestone from drug discovery collaboration with Asahi Kasei Pharma on an undisclosed target for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases

2017

  • Achieved 3 milestones in oncology drug discovery collaboration with Servier, including Mcl-1 clinical candidate first time in man, and entered into a fourth research collaboration
  • Achieved a clinical milestone from an adenosine A2A receptor antagonist collaboration with Corvus Pharmaceuticals, who announced positive data from a Phase 1/1b study with single agent CPI-444 in patients with renal cell carcinoma
  • Entered into research collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo on undisclosed oncology targets

2016

  • Achieved milestone in collaboration with Servier for Bcl-2 clinical candidate first time in man

2015

  • Achieved research milestone in collaboration with Asahi Kasei Pharma
  • V158866, the lead molecule arising from our FAAH internal research programme, completed a phase II study in spinal cord injury patients
  • Licensed proprietary adenosine receptor antagonist technology, including lead A2A antagonist V81444 (later CPI-444), for development and commercialisation to Corvus Pharmaceuticals

2014

  • Awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade, endorsing both our talent and capabilities, and recognising achievement in growing overseas earnings through research collaborations
  • Licensed worldwide rights in vipadenant, a small molecule A2A receptor antagonist, for use in immuno-oncology to RedoxTherapies (a Celgene company)
  • Licenced worldwide rights in tosedostat, an orally active aminopeptidase inhibitor for use in oncology, to CTI BioPharma

2013

  • Achieved a third milestone in a drug discovery collaboration with H. Lundbeck A/S
  • Entered into a research collaboration with Asahi Kasei Pharma on an undisclosed target for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases

2012

  • Entered into a drug discovery collaboration with Genentech (now completed) utilising Vernalis’ fragment and structure-based drug discovery platform against an undisclosed target
  • Achieved a pre-clinical milestone in the first oncology research collaboration with Servier and entered into a third research collaboration

2011

  • Positive results obtained from a Phase I trial of V158866, a FAAH inhibitor with potential application in a wide range of pain and other indications
  • Hsp90 inhibitor, NVP-AUY922 achieved clinical proof of concept
  • Two milestones from research collaboration with H. Lundbeck A/S on LRRK2 inhibitors obtained

2010

  • Entered into a collaboration with H. Lundbeck A/S on LRRK2, inhibitors of which have utility for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease

2009

  • Entered into a collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (now completed) over a novel Vernalis oncology programme
  • Entered into a second oncology research collaboration with Servier

2007

  • First research collaboration with Servier (which is still active); growing expertise in biophysical methods such as ITC and SPR

2006

  • Research concentrated on Granta Park site with in-house projects on oncology targets

2005

  • Licensed worldwide rights in RPL554, an inhaled, long-acting dual inhibitor of phosphodiesterase 3 and 4 (PDE3/4), to Verona Pharma

2004

  • Hsp90 pre-clinical candidate partnered with Novartis, although this has since terminated and the rights have been returned to Vernalis

2003

  • Series of mergers created Vernalis plc, combining the expertise of RiboTargets with CNS targets and GPCR pharmacology from Vernalis Group in Winnersh, as well as DMPK capability, a clinical pipeline and a marketed product, frovatriptan

2001

  • Research changed focus to oncology protein targets; development of the SeeDs fragment-based discovery platform

2000

  • Structure-based discovery of inhibitors of the 30S subunit of the ribosome; established X-ray crystallography

1997

  • RiboTargets established fragment- and structure-based drug discovery against RNA targets; established macromolecular NMR spectroscopy

Our people

We have expertise in the key areas needed to characterise new protein targets, develop assays, identify and validate hits from fragments and other sources, evolve these into lead compounds guided by protein structure, and optimise these further to deliver drug candidates. Our team also has a well-established core of experience; many of us have worked together for over a decade, and this brings breadth and depth to our knowledge pool.

Mike Wood PhD
Mike Wood PhDManaging Director
Mike Wood has been Managing Director since 2019, and previously held the role of Research Director from 2004. He has overseen the continued strengthening of capabilities in structure and fragment-based drug discovery. His focus has been on the pragmatic adaptation of the most effective methods for rapid assessment of therapeutic targets and driving projects to deliver clinical candidates. Before becoming Research Director at Vernalis, he was Head of Pre-clinical Development at RiboTargets, and he started his industrial career at Smith Kline and French in 1986.
Clare Searle ACA
Clare Searle ACAFinance Director
Clare Searle joined Vernalis as Finance Director in January 2019. She is an accomplished Finance Director and business advisor, with experience in finance, strategy, and operational planning across a broad range of industries. Clare qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2004 and worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers for 16 years, primarily in the Advisory Practice and with a focus on restructuring and turnaround, as well as a number of secondments to multinational corporations and banking institutions. Clare also holds a BSc in Biology and MSc in Allergy and Immunology.
James Murray PhD
James Murray PhDResearch Director
Dr James Murray has been with Vernalis Research for 18 years, having previously held research roles in the USA and Australia. His time with the Company has focussed on optimising its drug discovery process. This has primarily been through innovation in the use of biochemical and biophysical tools, with a particular emphasis on the hit-to-lead stage. He has a proven track record, with over 50 peer reviewed scientific papers, 13 granted patents and 22 active patent applications. He has also co-led the Mcl-1 and Bcl-2 collaborations with Servier, leading to two compounds in active clinical development.
Professor Rod Hubbard
Professor Rod HubbardSenior Fellow, Vernalis Research and Professor, Chemistry, University of York
Rod Hubbard is responsible for initiating and coordinating external collaborations, exploiting a scientific reputation built on over 35 years of academic and commercial research. He was a founding Scientific Advisory Board member of RiboTargets in 1997, joining what became Vernalis in 2001 to establish protein structure and fragment-based discovery capabilities. He currently divides his time between University of York (fragment methods for chemical biology and industrial biotechnology) and Vernalis Research. He also works with UK Research Councils and consults for pharmaceutical and technology companies around the world.
Sam Carford MCIPD
Sam Carford MCIPDHR Director
Sam Carford is HR Director and responsible for setting and delivering all aspects of the people management strategy, including talent acquisition, reward & recognition and employee engagement. Sam is a chartered member of the CIPD and has over 15 years HR experience, mostly gained at Vernalis during her first tenure. Sam re-joined the company in 2019, having held generalist positions in the software technology sector.
Paul Greaney PhD
Paul Greaney PhDDirector of IT & Informatics
Paul Greaney has been Director of IT & Informatics since 2003 after initially joining Ribotargets in 2001. Prior to this he had worked in various computational chemistry, informatics and IT roles at Proteus Molecular Design and Protherics. He has guided Vernalis IT infrastructure in support of its various business strategies both in the UK and North America managing a wide range of business change projects. His key focus is on the delivery of optimum decision support tools to colleagues and in particular to the drug discovery teams.
Sharon Maine
Sharon MaineFacilities and Purchasing Manager
Sharon Maine has been Facilities and Purchasing Manager since 2017, and has had a role in purchasing and corporate administration at Vernalis since 2012. She supports our scientific teams through the safe operation of the building, its services and equipment. Sharon is responsible for procurement of supplies and equipment, and is the primary contact for relationships with our vendors. Sharon is committed to increasing productivity by implementing practices that comply with environmental policies, and improve safety and efficiency, whilst reducing operating costs.
Ben Davis PhD
Ben Davis PhDResearch Fellow, Biology
Dr Ben Davis is an NMR spectroscopist and biophysicist by training. His current research focus is applying FBLD methods to drug discovery programs involving challenging targets and systems. Ben studied for his PhD in protein folding and ligand binding with Professor Alan Fersht at Cambridge University, and then studied molecular interactions between small molecules and biomolecules, both protein and RNA. He has contributed to six books over the last decade, and has been an author on more than thirty scientific publications. He is a frequent speaker at scientific conferences and has been running FBLD training workshops since 2007.

Join our team

At Vernalis, our greatest success is the science that delivers drug candidates to our collaborators for development into new medicines. This success is totally dependent on the people who form our team of dedicated, excellent scientists and research technology experts who, together, strive to solve some of the most complex challenges in the discovery of the next generation of medicines.

We pride ourselves on our approach, with collaboration at the heart of what we do best. We achieve this by combining knowledge and expertise across functions and disciplines through our open and inclusive working environment. We work hard, but always make the time to celebrate our successes.

We look for skilled and versatile individuals who are passionate about what they do, and are ready for the challenges and rewards of working in a stimulating and innovative, team environment. In return, we offer a comprehensive reward package that includes bonus, private medical insurance and a generous pension contribution.

Current job openings are shown below. If there are none at this time and you are interested in what we do, send your CV and a covering email to hr@vernalis.com.

As part of any recruitment process, we collect and process personal data relating to job applicants. Our job applicant privacy notice is available here.

Vacancies

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