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Sygnature Discovery to Partner with UCL School of Pharmacy for £1M Pancreatic Cancer Research Project

3rd August 2017 – Nottingham, UKSygnature Discovery, the UK’s largest independent provider of integrated drug discovery resource and expertise, has been appointed by UCL to lead an optimisation project targeting pancreatic cancer.

The project is based upon research done by Professor Stephen Neidle’s group in the UCL School of Pharmacy, in collaboration with the UCL Drug Discovery Group, led by Dr Richard Angell. It is funded by a £1 million investment from the £50 million UCL Technology Fund, managed by Albion Capital in collaboration with UCL Business.

Professor Neidle is a pioneer in the design of drugs which effectively ‘switch off’ the functioning of cancer-related genes. His group has developed a new drug which is designed to target quadruplex structures in DNA.  Such quadruplex structures are more prevalent in certain cancers than in normal cells, providing opportunity for targeted killing of these cancer cells. One type of cancer cell shown to be affected by this type of molecular approach is pancreatic cancer.

Sygnature will apply its expertise in medicinal chemistry, parallel synthesis, cell imaging and biophysics to optimise the lead molecules identified by Prof. Neidle.  The aim of this optimisation process is to improve the therapeutic properties of the molecules.

Dr John Unitt, Sygnature’s Director of Bioscience said: “We are excited to be chosen to partner with UCL on this oncology project. As a research organisation we are always looking to apply our oncology expertise to exciting new targets like Professor Neidle’s G-Quadruplex project.”

“Despite the availability of many new cancer therapies, pancreatic cancer still has a very poor outcome for patients and remains one of the most significant unmet needs in oncology. We believe that ultimately this novel cancer therapy could offer hope to patients whose prognosis today remains very poor.”

Sygnature Discovery presented with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2017 at VIP ceremony to confer the Grant of Appointment

25th July 2017 – Nottingham, UK – Sygnature Discovery, the UK’s largest independent provider of integrated drug discovery resource and expertise, has today been presented with one of the UK’s most prestigious business awards – the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – at a special VIP ceremony.

Founder and CEO of Sygnature Discovery, Dr Simon Hirst, received the award in recognition of Sygnature’s international trade success. Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Sir John Peace, presented the award at a special ceremony held at Sygnature’s new facility, the £30m Discovery Building in Nottingham. The ceremony was attended by staff, clients and close contacts of the company as well as The Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Michael Edwards and other dignitaries.  The ceremony offered an opportunity for guests to view the new Discovery Building, its super high-tech laboratories and its Corona sculpture.

Dr Hirst is a Medicinal Chemist with almost 30 years of industry experience, winning the Chemistry World ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award in 2016. He founded Sygnature Discovery in 2004 and now employs over 170 dedicated scientists researching potential new medicines to treat a range of debilitating diseases. This expertise is exported to clients around the world.

Dr Hirst commented, “To receive the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise, International Trade is a tremendous honour and the recognition for our success overseas is very gratifying for the whole team at Sygnature Discovery.  As a company we have always viewed drug discovery as an internationally important sector to work in and as such, international trade has always been a significant part of our strategy.”

Dr Simon Hirst and Sygnature’s Chief Operating Officer, Dr Jonathan Williams were also recently invited to a Buckingham Palace reception attended by Her Majesty The Queen.

Dr Hirst added, “It was a huge privilege and truly humbling experience to be invited to Buckingham Palace to meet members of the Royal Household. Being recognised with a Queen’s Award is something the whole team at Sygnature Discovery can be very proud of as it marks the significant achievements we have made over the last 13 years.”

Sir John Peace and Dr Simon Hirst

(Image: Mark Fear, Nottingham Post)

STOP PRESS: Sygnature Discovery named as Finalist in OBN Awards 2017 Best CRO category

26th July 2017 – Nottingham, UK – Sygnature Discovery, the UK’s largest independent provider of integrated drug discovery resource and expertise, is pleased to announce that it is a finalist in the OBN Awards 2017 Best Contract Research Organisation category.

The OBN Awards 2017, now in their 9th year, celebrate innovation and outstanding achievement across the UK Life Sciences industry. Categories are broad ranging and include Biotech, Medtech, Synthetic Biology, Digital Healthcare and Investment.

This year OBN is launching a brand-new category, Best Contract Research Organisation which looks to recognise the critical support services provided by CROs across the pharmaceutical, biotech and medtech industries.

The Awards dinner will take place on Thursday 5th October 2017 at Oxford Town Hall.  For more information on the OBN Awards 2017, go to:



How to become a science entrepreneur – Chemistry World interviews Dr Simon Hirst

8th July 2017 – With fierce competition and a scarcity of posts beyond post-doctoral level, many chemists see starting their own business as an alternative career path.

But even for those researchers coming from an industry background, venturing into business can seem daunting.

Chemistry World recently spoke to some entrepreneurial insiders, including Dr Simon Hirst, Sygnature Discovery’s Founder and CEO, to find out their top tips when it comes to making it on your own.

To read the Chemistry World article go to:

Sir John Peace, Midlands Engine Chairman, opens Discovery Building, Sygnature’s New HQ

28th June 2017 – Nottingham, UK – Sir John Peace has officially opened Sygnature Discovery’s new HQ, the purpose-built Discovery Building located at BioCity Nottingham.  The £30 million building contains 50,000 sq ft of chemistry and biology laboratory and office space on five levels.  Sygnature Discovery is currently occupying three levels of the building.

Addressing the assembled guests at the invitation-only evening event Sir John Peace, Chairman of the Midlands Engine, said “Last November, the Government published the Midlands Engine Science and Innovation Audit.  It highlighted that the Midlands leads the way in the UK when it comes to medical technologies, employing 8,000 in the sector, with 95,000 employed in related supporting sectors such as research and experimental development in biotechnology.”

“The Discovery building, built with support from the D2N2 LEP and Nottingham City Council, adds to the success of BioCity Nottingham, the UK’s largest bioscience incubator.  This building will support more than 700 new bioscience roles in the city over the next 30 years and is certain to draw the best and brightest from around the UK.”

Sir John also commented that in his role as Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, he is looking forward to returning to Sygnature Discovery to present a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise, International Trade, to Dr Simon Hirst, Sygnature’s Founder and CEO.

Guests also learned more about the Discovery Building’s unique ‘Corona’ sculpture.  Designed by renowned Nottingham-based artist Wolfgang Buttress with scientific input from Dr Martin Bencsik of Nottingham Trent University, the ‘Corona’ acts as a brise soleil during the day to improve the energy efficiency of the building and at night, using data from two NASA satellites which monitor solar flare activity, provides an ever-changing fibre optic light show which reflects the sun’s activity in real time on the facade of the building.

(L-R) Dr Glenn Crocker, chief executive of BioCity, vice-chancellor of Nottingham Trent University Edward Peck, Simon Hirst chief executive of Sygnature Discovery, Sir John Peace chair of Midlands Engine, Dr Louis Nisbet chairman of BioCity Nottingham, Toby Reid managing director of BioCity Group

Unlocking efficiency in drug discovery: GE Healthcare’s The Pulse visits Sygnature Discovery

15th June 2017 – The Pulse recently interviewed Dr Scott Pollack, Associate Director, Biophysics and Enzymology, and Dr Paul Clewlow, Senior VP, Business Development, about how Sygnature Discovery is accelerating their ambitious clients’ drug discovery programs and helping them to increase their productivity through the application of cutting-edge technology, such as the Biacore 8K surface plasmon resonance equipment that was recently added to Sygnature’s Bioscience Department.

To read The Pulse article, go to:

Sygnature Discovery’s CEO Dr Simon Hirst talks to Chemistry World about growth


14th June 2017 – What a difference a year makes!  Chemistry World caught up with Dr Simon Hirst, Sygnature Discovery’s Founder and CEO, one year after he was named as the Royal Society of Chemistry’s ‘Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year’ 2016.

Since then the company has risen to even great heights and now Sygnature Discovery is part of an innovative partnership to bolster the life science sector in Nottingham.  To read the Chemistry World article, go to:

SelectScience Editorial Article: Insights into the UK’s Largest Independent Integrated Drug Discovery CRO

1st June 2017 – SelectScience recently interviewed Denise Swift, a Senior Bioscientist, Project and Team Leader at Sygnature Discovery.  Denise is responsible for evaluating new technologies to enhance Sygnature’s Bioscience capabilities – in particular, screening technologies, instrumentation and automation.

The interview highlighted Sygnature Discovery’s novel approach to custom assay development and revealed some of the secrets of our success in accelerating the discovery of new therapeutics.

The interview can be found here:

Sygnature Discovery identified as one of London Stock Exchange Group’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain

10th May 2017 – London, UK – The report is a celebration of the UK’s fastest-growing and most dynamic small and medium sized businesses across the UK.

To be included in the list, companies needed to show consistent revenue growth over a minimum of three years, significantly outperforming their industry peers. More detail on the methodology can be found in the report online at    

Sygnature Discovery enhances Biophysics capability with addition of Biacore 8K SPR system

2nd May 2017 – Nottingham, UK – Sygnature Discovery, the UK’s largest independent provider of integrated drug discovery resource and expertise, has enhanced its Biophysics capability with the addition of GE Healthcare’s Biacore 8K SPR system to the Biacore T200 SPR system that the company already has in-house.

As the newest member of GE Healthcare’s  Biacore family of products, the Biacore 8K efficiently delivers high quality binding data when screening and characterising small molecules and biologicals.  This high-sensitivity surface plasmon resonance (SPR) system rapidly provides kinetics and affinity data, thereby shortening time to results by up to eight times compared to single-needle systems.  The blend of system flexibility and throughput reduces the experimental cycle time, even for complex targets.

Dr Scott Pollack, Associate Director of Bioscience, at Sygnature Discovery commented:

“Biacore 8K is GE Healthcare’s most advanced Biacore instrument.  With its eight injection needles, the system can handle 64 affinity titrations in 3-5 hours, so up to 128 titrations per day or 640 (320 for n=2) per week if run continuously.  Single concentration test runs (e.g. fragment screens) of 4 hours per 384 well plate, or up to 2,300 per day are possible.

In addition to the more rapid client data turnaround that this capacity allows, the 8-needle configuration and smart ABA injection algorithm also accelerates assay development by allowing a wide array of conditions to be tested in parallel (e.g., buffer scouting) and are ideal for compound competition (mode-of-action) analysis.

Adding Biacore 8K to our Biacore T200 means that Sygnature Discovery is one of the best equipped drug discovery CROs in the UK offering biophysical services”.

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