Recently, there has been an increase of interest in α4δ-containing GABAA receptors as novel drug targets for the design of a new class of analgesics. However, to date there are no compounds that selectively target these receptors. This project therefore aims to identify potential drug candidates that selectively modulate α4δ-containing receptors.

We will utilize the newest available structural information and molecular modelling techniques to design surrogate receptors. These engineered receptors will be used in a high-throughput assay to identify new lead compounds that modulate α4δ-containing receptors. Once we have identified such chemical leads, we will refine the structures using structure-guided chemical synthesis to obtain potent and α4δ-selective molecules.


Associate Professor Thomas Balle, Professor Mary Collins

Research Location

Sydney Pharmacy School

Program Type



We are a multidisciplinary and highly collaborative lab in the field of CNS pharmacology and CNS drug discovery. We have just obtained a significant grant through the ARC Linkage scheme which links industry with academia. Due to the nature of this grant, this PhD project will give the candidate the unique opportunity to obtain first-hand research experience in both academic and industrial settings. The suitable candidate will have the opportunity to spend part of his/her candidature in a biotech company, in Copenhagen, Denmark working with world-class researchers in a pharmaceutical company environment.

This project will give the candidate the opportunity to obtain knowledge of a wide range of research techniques used in current drug discovery process such as: molecular modelling, molecular biology - PCR, protein engineering, tissue culture, radioligand binding, electrophysiology, slice electrophysiology and high-throughput screening for drug candidates.

Additional Information

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD student with Honours I or equivalent to join our research team. For the successful applicant there may be the opportunity to negotiate a top-up scholarship. The ideal candidate will possess some form of practical research lab experience and excellent verbal and written English communication skills.

This project will also be co-supervised by A/Prof Philip K. Ahring, and Prof Mary Collins

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Pharmaceutical industry, Pharmacology, novel analgesics, molecular biology, GABA receptors, drug discovery, computational modelling, CNS, brain slices, Electrophysiology, ion channel, receptor function, radioligand binding, mental health

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2127

Other opportunities with Professor Mary Collins