Centre for Natural Products Discovery

Research into preventing and curing disease

Our research interests are in natural products drug discovery, synthetic organic medicinal chemistry, nutraceuticals and food supplements, and pharmacology and toxicology.

The Centre for Natural Products Discovery is a unique platform for multidisciplinary and collaborative research incorporating various aspects of synthetic organic medicinal chemistry, natural products drug discovery, photochemistry, nutraceuticals and food supplements, pharmacology and toxicology.

The underlying and interconnecting research theme of this group is ‘prevention and cure of human diseases’. Currently available projects are in the following areas:

Medicinal Chemistry graphic

Our expertise

Natural products drug discovery (bioactive natural products)

  • Extraction, isolation, identification, structural modification (synthesis), bioactivity and mode of action of pharmaceutically important natural products
  • Production of compound libraries of dereplicated natural products for High Throughput Screening (HTS)
  • Biosynthesis of pharmaceutically and nutritionally important plant secondary metabolites
  • Metabolomics of medicinal plants
  • Toxicological evaluation and quality control of herbal medicine
  • Development of bioassays for screening plant extracts and isolated compounds
  • Production of bioactive plant secondary metabolites using tissue/cell-culture
  • Bioprospecting of higher plants from the Sundarban mangrove forest
  • The British flora
  • Ethnomedicine
  • Bioassay guided approach
  • Computational phytochemistry
  • Investigation of animal glycosaminoglycan carbohydrates

Synthetic organic medicinal chemistry

  • Drug design (synthetic organic chemistry) focusing on anti-colon cancer and lung cancer, skeletal muscle-regeneration, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and analgesic, wound-healing, anti-MRSA, anti-malarial and antioxidant properties
  • Structure-activity relationships (SAR) of bioactive compounds
  • Steroid dimers and ‘molecular umbrella’
  • Synthesis, analysis and reactivity of organic molecules, emphasizing their biological, medicinal, pharmaceutical and environmental importance
  • Synthesis of bioactive natural products and pharmaceutically important small molecules
  • Design, synthesis and initial testing of drugs to combat pathogenic microbes, especially conventional drug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, VRE etc.
  • Application of organic synthetic methodologies in different areas of chemistry
  • Synthesis of biologically active macrocyclic polyamines
  • Photosensitiser synthesis based on the chemistry of the phenothiazine and other azine systems
  • Screening of compounds as photoantimicrobial agents, relevant to modern infection control
  • Photodynamic materials
  • Structure-function relationships of heparin/heparan sulphates for discovery and medicinal chemistry optimisation of glycotherapeutic natural products
  • Nano- and molecular probes for oxygen sensing
  • Development of new synthetic methodologies towards cyclic and stapled peptides
  • Bioactive peptide synthesis as tools for chemical biology and drug delivery
  • Using fluorine to control molecular conformation and reactivity

Nutraceuticals and food supplements

  • Role of nutraceuticals and their basis of action in preventative medicine
  • Dietary modification and use of natural products in the prevention of cardiovascular disease especially platelet aggregation
  • Biochemistry of bile formation
  • Effects of free radicals on lipids and proteins
  • Properties and actions of antioxidants
  • Analysis and function of carotenoids

Pharmacology and toxicology

  • Studies on novel natural products for cancer chemoprevention and cytotoxic properties
  • Investigation on the ability of natural products to activate transcription factor NRF2 and hence a plethora of cell defence genes which prevent or inhibit cancer
  • Studies on the ability of identified compounds to prevent toxicity in vitro and investigate their differential toxicity in normal cells relative to cancer cells
  • Molecular mechanisms of the chemoprevention or cytotoxic pathways identified
  • Toxicological evaluation of herbal products and traditional medicine
  • Protein interaction assay development and investigations
  • Biochemical toxicology and the effects of various biological compounds on the hepato-biliary system
  • Toxicological studies on natural compounds
  • Evaluation of comparative cytotoxicity
  • Modes of action of anti-inflammatory compounds
  • Mechanistic studies on anticancer compounds

Research impact

Research in this group incorporates both fundamental and applied research along the central theme, ‘prevention and cure of human diseases’ impacting improvement of public health and quality of life in general. One of the key areas is directed towards new drug discovery and development (‘lead’ discovery), especially for the treatment of malaria, cancer and infectious diseases. The mechanism of action of nutraceuticals in the prevention of chronic diseases is also being investigated in conjunction with commercial companies. Successful outcome is expected to make a positive impact for society and the nation.


Our existing external research collaborations include: UCL School of Pharmacy, Imperial College London, University of Strathclyde, Huddersfield University, University of Liverpool, Manchester Metropolitan University, East London University, University of Reading, University of Hertfordshire, De Montfort University, Newcastle University Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Durham University, University of Manchester, Robert Gordon University, Boots Co. Ltd, Quest Vitamins Ltd (UK and UAE), Wakunaga of America Co. Ltd, Second Military Medical University (Shanghai, China), University of Kuwait, University of Balikesir (Turkey), Universiti Kebangsaan (Malaysia), University of Technology Malaysia (UTM), Conesa Spain, Institute of the Chemistry of Plant Substances (Tashkent, Uzbekistan), East West University (Dhaka, Bangladesh), North-South University (Bangladesh), University of Tripoli (Tripoli, Libya), Gazi University (Ankara, Turkey), University of Nairobi Herbarium (University of Nairobi, Kenya), Stamford University (Bangladesh), Tabriz University of Medical Sciences (Tabriz, Iran), University of Dhaka (Bangladesh), Khulna University (Bangladesh), University of Agriculture Faisalabad (Pakistan), Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), Kasetsart University (Thailand) and Suranaree University of Technology (Thailand).


Contact us

We can help you with your research requirements, get in touch with Professor Satya Sarker