Targeting strategies for drug design

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Selective binding of small molecules with proteins underpins most drug discovery. However, while a compound can be devised to interact with a single protein, this cannot drive the molecule into a specific location where functional modulation of the target protein only at that location is desired for therapy. Instead, designed compounds usually bind to the protein wherever it is expressed in the body and this can be deterimental to normal healthy physiology. This project will investigate a number of promising new approaches to directing protein-binding compounds to specific compartments of cells and organisms. It will require a combination of organic synthesis, medicinal chemistry, molecular modelling and chemical biology. The new approaches will be tested and optimised with the goal of inhibiting or activating desired proteins in specific compartments in order to modulate disease-causing protein functions without altering normal healthy physiology. Achieving these aims will require enthusiasm, a high degree of self-motivation, lateral thinking, strong chemical knowledge and hands-on skills in organic synthesis (solution and solid phase), NMR characterisation (including 2D NMR structure analysis), HPLC purification, mass spectrometry, and computer modelling. Some knowledge of enzyme assays and cell biology would be an advantage. The long term goal is to design new compounds and profile them for selective effects on target genes/proteins/cells/rodent models of inflammatory diseases and cancer. Outcomes will include new knowledge of protein function in disease; greater understanding of medicinal and organic chemistry in drug design, drug targeting, mechanisms and effectiveness of drug action; patentable methods and bioactive compounds; and new experimental leads to new medicines for development towards the clinic.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Professor David Fairlie

Institute for Molecular Bioscience


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of organic synthesis, medicinal chemistry, molecular modelling and chemical biology is required.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of organic and medicinal chemistry and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of synthetic organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2025. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process