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Andrew Westwell

Professor Andrew Westwell

Professor of Medicinal Chemistry

School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Media commentator


I joined the School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences in January 2006. My research interests:

  • Anticancer drug discovery,
  • 18F PET radiochemistry
  • Chemical analysis of new psychoactive substances.

In particular, my research focuses on the discovery and pre-clinical development of new molecules targeting metastatic progression, the cause of death in >90% of cancer patients.


  • PhD in synthetic organic chemistry, University of Leeds (1990-1993)
  • BSc (Hons) Chemistry, University of Leeds (1987-1990)



























Research interests

Having trained in synthetic organic chemistry, the main focus of my research activities in recent years has been in the area of medicinal chemistry and cancer drug discovery.

I am a medicinal chemist with extensive experience of the design, synthesis and biological evaluation of small molecules for drug discovery and diagnostics. My research interests can be divided into the following categories:

  • Anti-metastatic drug discovery (Bcl-3 inhibition)
  • Targeting cancer stem cells for selective apoptosis (c-Flip inhibition)
  • New theranostic pro-nucleotides (ProTides)
  • New androgen receptor antagonists (prostate cancer)
  • New FAK inhibitors (invasive breast cancer)
  • Natural product derivatives targeting schistosomiasis
  • Diagnostic imaging (Positron Emission Tomography) via 18F radiochemistry
  • Characterisation of novel psychoactive substances, from a harm reduction perspective

Cancer drug design and discovery

Previously I have been involved in a variety of cancer drug discovery projects, using cell-based screening methods to identify new compounds of interest. One of these discovery projects has resulted in the identification of a new agent in clinical trial (Phortress). Current research interests are directed towards the following areas:

  • a breast cancer associated E3 ubiquitin ligase (BCA2) and E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (Rad6B)
  • protein-protein interaction targets in cancer
  • selective induction of apoptosis in cancer cells
  • Diagnostic imaging in cancer and neuroscience using Positron Emission Tomography. Interests in this area centre on the discovery of new F-labelled aromatic molecules for potential diagnostic PET imaging applications, and chemical methodologies for the late stage installation of fluoride into aromatic therapeutic and diagnostic agents.
  • Characterisation of novel psychoactive substances (WEDINOS Project)
  • Use of analytical chemical methods (NMR and LCMS) to characterise new psychoactives, including 'legal highs'. This work is carried out in conjunction with Public Health Wales and Llandough Hospital Cardiff


Cardiff University
  • Prof. Andrea Brancale (School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences)
  • Prof. Richard Clarkson (School of Biosciences)
  • Prof. Arwyn Jones (School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences)
  • Dr. Stephen Hiscox (School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences)
  • Josie Smith, Dean Acreman, Joanne Rogers, Mary Busby (WEDINOS project, Public Health Wales and NHS Wales)
  • Prof. Karl Hoffmann (Aberystwyth University, Wales)

Key Expertise

  • Medicinal chemistry and drug design
  • Analytical spectroscopy (NMR, mass spectrometry)

Current research funding

  • 2020-21   Wellcome Trust / Cardiff University ISSF3 Translational Kickstart: Development of Novel Theranostic Pro-Nucleotides (ProTides). PI: Andrew Westwell.
  • 2012-       Public Health Wales (Welsh Government) / NHS Wales: New Psychoactive Substances Project – Action in Wales. PI: Josie Smith. Contribution: drug analysis by NMR spectroscopy.


  • PH1125  Chemical and biological properties of drug molecules
  • PH2112  Principles of drug design
  • PH3101  Optimisation of drug design
  • PH3202  Research methodology
  • PH4116  Pharmacy research or scholarship project
  • PH4117  Pharmaceutical sciences, pharmacy practice and the population


Career profile

I graduated with a degree in Chemistry from the University of Leeds in 1990, and then completed a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry from the same department under the supervision of Professor Chris Rayner. Following a two-year postdoctoral position in the Department of Chemistry at Loughborough University under the supervision of Professor Jonathan Williams then Professor Chris Moody, I was appointed as a Research Fellow within the Cancer Research Laboratories at the University of Nottingham, with Professor Malcolm Stevens. I was appointed to a Cancer Research UK funded Lectureship in 2001 in the School of Pharmacy at Nottingham, and moved to the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science in 2006 to take up a position as Senior Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry. I was promoted to Reader in 2013.

Scientific and professional service

I am recent past-Treasurer for the British Association for Cancer Research, a charitable organisation of over 1000 cancer professionals, and have been involved in the organisation of a number of cancer research-related conferences.

Prizes / membership of professional bodies

  • Royal Society of Chemistry Malcolm Campbell memorial prize winner 2003 (with MFG Stevens and TD Bradshaw)