Pharmaceutical Design and Discovery

The Pharmaceutical Design and Discovery Unit in the interface between chemistry, biology and pharmaceutical technology integrates a strong core of the Faculty’s expertise in medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutical microbiology, natural product chemistry, chemoinformatics, and formulation. The ultimate goals of the unit are to discover better, more efficient and safer drug candidates against relevant human diseases, to discover chemical probes for studying biological processes as well as to develop innovative pharmaceutical applications and methods. Unit's principal investigators are listed below.

My current recent research interests lie in:

  1. antimicrobial and anti-biofilm agents and coatings built from materials from natural sources;
  2. new agents targeting protozoan parasites that cause neglected diseases and their modulatory effects in the host-immune response;
  3. multi-target agents that affect the tumour microenvironment for the prevention and treatment of cancer
  4. new molecules that can modulate neuroinflammation.

The synthetic medicinal chemistry research group of Boije af Gennäs is currently investigating and developing novel drug-like compounds that target diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases (such as myocardial infarction and stroke), neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer´s and Parkinson’s) and diseases caused by pathogenic parasites (malaria, leishmaniasis). In addition, we are developing novel microchips that can be used in bioanalytics.

We are always interested in new collaboration opportunities, please feel free to contact us!

Our research is mainly concentrated on two, closely related, topics. One is drug metabolism, mainly glucuronidation and UGTs, the enzymes that catalyze these reactions. The second is efflux transporters of drugs and their conjugates, such as drug glucuronides. We employ multiple methodologies, including molecular biology and recombinant protein expression to produce the proteins we study, enzyme kinetic analyses, analytical chemistry, enzyme-assisted synthesis and organic chemistry synthesis to prepare needed compounds. Our UGTs studies are highly appreciated in the field, while the transporters research is much newer, but already productive.

Industrial pharmacy includes manufacturing, development, marketing and distribution of drug products and quality assurance of these activities. This broad research area relates to several functions in pharmaceutical industry. Research in industrial pharmacy is conducted both at the academia and in pharmaceutical industry as collaboration projects. The research can either include laborative work, interview or survey studies. The main research topics at the university are the novel formulation technologies for paediatric, elderly and veterinary patients and the stabilisation of biopharmaceuticals in freeze-dried or in spray-dried formulations.

Natural product drug discovery group focuses on drugs of biogenic origin. It combines phytochemistry, cell biology, microbiology, analytical chemistry, biotechnology. The research of this RC is multidisciplinary in character and the strategic goal is to find new medicinal compounds and nutritional substances. To reach the strategic goal the focal points in the research are to develop and use analytical chemical methods for biological materials and to evaluate the chemical constituents in the bioactive extracts and fractions for drug targets. Until 2017 the RC has produced Ph.D. theses 15; publications 140; patent families 4.


Synthetic methods for accessing novel multiply substituted scaffold-based small-molecular compounds for drug discovery. The studied scaffolds include both privileged structures and less studied scaffolds in medicinal chemistry. Recent examples of scaffolds are chromone, quinolone and azulene. There is a special interest in synthesis of analogues of hit compounds, which are challenging to develop into drugs. These include mimicry of peptide motifs with non-peptidic building blocks and synthesis of scaffold-based peptide mimetics. This research also comprises a general interest in heterocycles in medicinal chemistry and synthesizing ring replacements/analogues.

Focusing on drug discovery and applying and developing methods in synthetic medicinal chemistry, our group is unique at the University of Helsinki in translating the increasing structural information of drug targets or ligands into the synthesis of novel compounds that do not exist in the current commercial compound libraries. These new compounds serve as valuable probes in the research of new drug targets or as chemical entities in the search for novel therapeutic compounds. Beyond medicinal chemistry of antimicrobial and anti-biofilm agents, we focus on protein kinases and chemical induction of cellular reprogramming and differentiation.