Understanding complex biological systems that are altered in  human diseases is essential to accelerate the development of new therapies. Arguably the steepest challenge facing systematic approaches to understand and manipulate complex biological systems is our limited capability to develop selective chemical tools to interrogate fundamental mechanisms (‘chemical biology’) and to underpin the future development of therapeutics. Out of potentially hundreds of thousands of macromolecular targets essential for biological reactions, only a few thousand have been successfully modulated using small-molecule chemical tools, and the vast majority of these belong to just a few structural classes (eg., kinase or protease active sites, G-protein coupled receptors).

The Centre for Chemical Biology and Therapeutics (CCBT) is a multidisciplinary centre designed to pioneer innovative approaches to create chemical tools that modulate novel classes of targets, in order to explore the fundamental biological mechanisms underlying human diseases. Our work integrates biochemistry, genetics and cell biology with structural biology, computational chemistry and synthetic chemistry. Our long-term vision is not only to discover fundamental new insights into disease mechanisms, but also to translate this knowledge into novel approaches for therapy.

Our first scientific focus is to explore new approaches to target the molecular recognition of post-transcriptional protein modifications (PTMs) using small-molecule chemical tools, in order to understand how these modifications spawn functional diversity in the human proteome, and to decipher how their recognition guides intracellular signaling. In turn, this new knowledge will underpin the discovery of novel approaches to selectively modulate intracellular signaling pathways disrupted in diseases ranging from cancer to infections.

We aim to establish a world-class framework for chemical biology and therapeutics research in the inStem/NCBS campus, to catalyze scientific collaborations with existing programmes, and to promote capacity building at the interface between chemistry and biology. Our efforts not only address unmet scientific needs for the systematic analysis of complex biological processes underlying human diseases, but also provide a foundation for ambitious collaborative endeavors with biotech and pharma.

The CCBT was established in 2013 as an inter-institutional centre between inStem and NCBS with a generous award from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) that funds research in Bangalore. We benefit from a joint award made by the UK Medical Research Council and the DBT that supports a strong collaboration with the University of Cambridge.