About us

Collaborative discovery, innovative solutions

For more than 25 years Vernalis has been working with our collaborators to tackle some of the most challenging therapeutic targets. From protein-protein interactions to novel targets classes, we have developed a deep expertise in helping our partners overcome hurdles enabling drug discovery programs and generate both robust, reliable leads and candidates.



We have extensive experience in expressing and engineering proteins for biophysical and structural studies from multiple expression systems. We develop and apply novel assay technologies and use biophysical methods, including high resolution NMR, mass spectrometry, SPR, ITC and X-ray crystallography, to validate and progress chemical series. Hit-ID methods we employ are fragment-based approaches, biochemical assays, computational methods and, as part of the HitGen Group, cutting-edge DEL technology.


Our medicinal chemistry group has decades of experience in the elaboration of fragment hits towards lead optimisation and candidate selection. We have a dedicated chemistry technology group that has one of the largest Syrris Asia flow chemistry systems in the world which is used for automated synthesis and preparation of large compound libraries.

Additionally, our cell biology and DMPK groups can characterise and support your chemical series through lead optimisation and pre-clinical studies. Our computational chemistry group has access to cutting edge software, develops proprietary in-house machine learning (ML) methodologies and strongly supports the computational chemistry community; the open-source Vernalis KNIME nodes were the most downloaded and used extension in the KNIME community in 2023.

Our Approach

Our robust hit-ID approach enables us to deliver multiple well validated hit series to begin medicinal chemistry campaigns. Through our drug discovery campaigns on some of the most challenging therapeutic targets, we have a deep understanding of the need for well-validated chemical matter and robust biochemical and biophysical platforms to successfully prosecute a drug discovery campaign. Underlying all these approaches is the highest quality protein. Our Protein Science group has extensive expertise in expressing, purifying and engineering proteins from bacterial, yeast, insect cell and mammalian expression systems to produce the best protein for the tasks required. At the heart of our approach is innovation, using expertise to overcome challenges and hurdles to enable robust and reliable drug discovery programmes.

Collaboration and Partnering

Vernalis can support programs from gene to candidate, and any aspect in between with our established and robust drug discovery platform.

Collaboration structures vary from long term, multi target projects through to short discrete pieces of work. Interested in collaborating? Contact us to learn more about our capabilities and opportunities.


“The Vernalis team was fantastic with troubleshooting problems to deliver on all goals of the project. Consulting frequently with their experts on DEL screens and NMR validation made the project a success, and I would readily work with them again”

Biotech company, short term collaboration

“We collaborate with Vernalis on an integrated drug discovery project where Vernalis has delivered remarkable results against an historically “undruggable” target.  The team possesses a powerful blend of creativity and scientific rigor and have been superb colleagues to work with on a personal level.  I give Vernalis my highest recommendation and hope to work with them on many projects in the future”

Pharmaceutical company, long term joint collaboration

Leadership team

James Murray PhD
Research Director and Joint Site Lead

Dr James Murray has been with Vernalis since 2001 having previously held research roles in the USA and Australia. Throughout this period, James has guided the evolution of our approach to drug discovery, with a particular emphasis on the role of biophysics across a wide range of target classes.

He co-led the discovery of multiple candidates in collaboration with pharma and biotech companies, most notably BH3 mimetics targeting Mcl-1 and Bcl-2. He has over 60 peer reviewed scientific papers and, 13 granted patents and more than 20 active patent applications.

James champions an open and inclusive approach to the Vernalis research culture, which is reflected in how we collaborate.

Clare Searle ACA
Finance Director and Joint Site Lead

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.

Susan Wallcraft
General Counsel and Company Secretary

Susan Wallcraft has been General Counsel since October 2019 responsible for dealing with all legal and company secretarial matters.  She is an experienced general counsel and company secretary with over 25 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry and health charities. A qualified English solicitor, she did her training and then practised corporate law for several years at a firm in London before moving in-house to roles of increasing responsibility in Parke Davis, Pharmacia and Pfizer and after that was General Counsel and Company Secretary at the Wellcome Trust for several years. She is also a non-executive director of Medicines Discovery Catapult and LifeArc.

Karen Benwell
Director of Biochemistry

Karen Benwell has been with Vernalis since 1997 and currently holds the role of Director of Biochemistry. Karen began her career in the Microbiology Department at the General Hospital Birmingham and since then has held roles at Wyeth Research (CNS Division), the MRC and Cerebrus. Currently her department comprises three teams; Protein Science, Assay Technology and DMPK. These teams support all projects, both collaborative and in-house, from pre-project stage through to clinical development.

Ben Davis
Research Fellow and Director of Business Development

Dr Ben Davis is an NMR spectroscopist and biophysicist by training, although since 2022 he has focussed on Business Development. However, he still maintains an active interest in developing new methods to enable Fragment Based Drug Discovery, particularly against challenging targets. Ben studied for his PhD in protein folding with Professor Alan Fersht at Cambridge University, and then studied molecular interactions at UCL before joining RiboTargets, now Vernalis, in 1998. He has contributed to seven books on FBDD since 2012, and has been an author on more than thirty scientific publications. He is a frequent speaker at scientific conferences.

Professor Rod Hubbard
Founding Scientist, Vernalis and Emeritus Professor, University of York

Rod Hubbard’s current role at Vernalis is coordinating major funded collaborations.  He is recognised as an international leader in the development and promotion of fragment-based discovery which exploits a scientific reputation built on nearly 40 years of academic and commercial research (h-index of 62, 24,000 citations).  He was a founding SAB member of RiboTargets in 1997 before joining what became Vernalis in 2001 to establish protein structure based discovery alongside retention of his chair at York with research in chemical biology and industrial biotechnology.

Paul Greaney
Director of IT & Informatics

Paul Greaney has been Director of IT & Informatics since 2003 after initially joining Ribotargets, now Vernalis 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.