The Chemical Biology Core Facility (CBCF) offers the infrastructure and expertise for assay development, small-molecule screening and use of medicinal chemistry to optimise compounds against novel targets for 'biotool' or early drug development.

The facility was set up as a collaboration between EMBL, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and University of Heidelberg to provide the infrastructure and expertise to open up small molecule development to research groups at these institutions.

Our aim is to enable research groups to:

  • Explore the biology-chemistry interface by complementing excellence in biology with innovative chemistry
  • Identify novel low molecular weight compounds for use as ‘biotools’ to probe biological function
  • Generate added value on in-house targets for basic research and for Intellectual Property

Our key services

  • Application of high-throughput screening approaches to identify biotools or hit compounds
  • Computational screening using ligand-based and structure-based design strategies
  • Medicinal chemistry optimisation of hits to generate high-quality tool compounds

Major achievements and accomplishments


Facility established in 2004 as a collaboration between EMBL and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).


Spin-off of Elara Pharmaceuticals GmbH out of the facility to develop dual inhibitors targeting tumors.


Computational chemistry established. Spin-off of Savira GmbH to develop and commercialise screening derived hits targeting influenza virus.


University of Heidelberg joined the collaboration


Upgrade of the P3 Evolution pipetting system to an automation platform linking the  Janus robot, liquid handler, Cytomat cell incubator and Envision reader


Medicinal Chemistry lab opened


Execution of 1536 HTS screen with patient derived cells on automation platform

Services provided

  • Assay development and high-throughput screening
  • Binding affinity studies for small molecules and antibodies using the Biacore surface plasmon resonance technology (SPR)
  • Computational screening using ligand-based and structure-based design strategies
  • Medicinal chemistry optimisation of hits to generate high quality tool compounds
  • Optimisation of tool compounds towards therapeutic use
  • Managing outsourced chemistry activities
  • Managing compound acquisition through our chemistry partners

Steering Committee

The overall direction of the facility is overseen by a steering committee which has senior members of staff from the EMBL, DKFZ and University of Heidelberg. The projects are considered on a case-by-case basis, following preliminary evaluation for suitability and amenability to screening. The committee further reviews and assesses technical difficulties and determines priorities for new projects.

Please contact Joe Lewis to submit a project proposal.