Professor Christopher Abell

Todd-Hamied Fellow
Professor of Biological Chemistry
Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research
Natural Sciences (Physical)
Natural Sciences (Biological)
Research interests
Biological chemistry, especially enyzyme mechanism and inhibition.
Chris Abell

Fragment-based drug discovery

Chris Abell was a pioneer in the field of fragment-based drug discovery, an innovative approach to designing small molecules that bind specifically and selectively to proteins.  He has pursued this area academically and commercially. In 1999 he cofounded Astex on the Cambridge Science Park. Astex developed an international reputation is drug discovery. In 2013 Astex was purchased by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals for $886m.  In 2017, the first Astex-associated drug Kisqali [for breast cancer] got FDA approval.  In his University lab, the Abell group focus on developing new therapies for tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis and cancer..


The Abell group have long standing interests in developing the use of microdroplets in microfluidics as a novel platform for experimental science.  The have published extensively on technical developments (e.g. interfacing microdroplets with mass spectrometry), and applications e.g. in algal bioculture and polymer science. Chris has cofounded two companies based on his research in this area, Sphere Fluidics (2010) and aqdot (2013).


In 2013 Chris became the first Director of Postdoctoral Affairs in the University and was instrumental in setting up the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (  This organisation works to improve the recognition and experience of the 4000 postdoctoral researchers in the University.  In 2016 Chris was appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research.