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Medicines Research Group (MRG)

uel students in the lab

About us

The Medicines Research Group REF2014 outputs embrace translational medicine themes underpinning Global Health across the biomedical disciplines concerning the quality, safety and mechanisms of action for prescription and over the counter (OTC) medicines. The Group's multidisciplinary expertise spans drug discovery and development, chemistry, toxicology, pharmacology, pharmacognosy, microbiology and biopharmaceuticals. Faculty generate consulting and research income and lead partnerships with institutions across London, the UK, USA, Latin America, Pan-Africa and China, coupled with regular invitations to present research at international scientific conferences in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

  • The focus is primarily on elucidation of mechanisms underpinning pharmacological and toxicological response at cellular and acellular levels.
  • Investigate drug discovery potential for natural products related to public health promotion and disease prevention as well as disease treatment in emerging economies (of impact in children) and developed economies (of impact in the elderly).
  • Quality Assessment of optimal product formulations for clinically relevant therapeutic indications.
Key researchers include Professor Corcoran (epithelial disease in skin, lung and gut health);Dr Rahman (antimicrobial natural products); Dr Ayoub (inflammation, pain and thermoregulation); Dr Casalotti (molecular neuroscience); Dr Morgan (toxicology of natural products and synthetic drugs); Dr Pendry (cancer and mental health); Dr Sanchez-Medina (pharmacology and phytochemistry of natural products); Dr Seed (preclinical models of inflammation and immunity). Dr Thompsett (neurodegenerative disease), Dr Torres (phytochemistry of Mexican flora); Watkins (antimicrobial formulations from native British flora) and Dr Webb (diet and nutrition).

International recognition supports Corcoran’s industrial development of innovative tools for dissecting medicinal formulations. Since inclusion as an ECR in RAE2008 her team have evolved a powerful chemometric model for correlating chemistry with pharmacological activity for complex biopharmaceuticals of global import. This is typified in acclaimed work on wound-healing and smoking-related lung cancer, of natural products with significant economic potential in low income economies. This translational approach to drug discovery underpins several international research consortia.

Rahman’s research characterises anti-infective lead compounds from natural products including medicinal plants and microbial cultures. He has widely published on the chemical synthesis of bioactive compounds based on natural product analogues in collaboration with world-leading London universities. His work specifically enhances our understanding of the evidence-base for anti-infective secondary metabolites in emerging economies of impact, in particular, to high infant mortality rates.

Ayoub has investigated the role of the novel cyclooxygenase variant enzyme (COX-3) during inflammation, pain and thermoregulation. Other notable contributions include an investigation on the mechanism of anti-nociceptive action of annexin-A1; profiling the synthesis of prostaglandins in CNS tissues of mice in a chronic-relapsing model of multiple sclerosis; elucidation of the mechanism of pro-angiogenic action of mesenchymal stem cells. This research will expand the knowledge of mechanisms that underpin the structure-activity relationships of drug action in inflammatory disease of particular impact in ageing populations of developed economies.

Casalotti’s main research interest is in molecular neuroscience, specifically the biochemical and pharmacological characterization of the neurotransmitter receptors GABAa, NMDA and Peripheral Benzodiazepine Receptor. He has published effects of stress and drugs of addiction on gene expression in the brain, most recently refining the Drosophila model to investigate molecular mechanisms of alcohol addiction.

Morgan’s diverse research interests include toxicology of natural products and synthetic drugs, mechanistic toxicology, kidney and liver toxicity; bile acids and cancer; MDMA and other amphetamine-related drugs; gut microflora, probiotics and prebiotics; Ethnobotanical agents in wound healing.

Pendry is a Herbal Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Phytotherapy involving the investigation of antioxidant activity in selected medicinal plants traditionally used in treating chronic age-related diseases. Her research interest in cancer and mental health patients has evolved from her previous work as a practitioner with Barnet Cancer Care and as a Mental Health Act Manager for a North London Mental Health Trust. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Herbal Medicine and serves on the Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee for the UK Government Agency MHRA and the Council Member of the European Herbal Traditional Practitioners Association.

Sanchez-Medina’s research concerns quality, phytochemistry and pharmacological activity of natural products.

Seed’s research has focused the refinement of preclinical modelling of inflammation, immunity and arthritis; COX isoforms in tumour growth and angiogenesis; the role of the non-canonical NFkB pathway in adaptive immunity; PGJ2 and the resolution of acute immune arthritis; topical drug delivery.

Thompsett’s research has focused on unravelling the molecular mechanisms involved in protein misfolding in neurodegenerative disease processes. These span CJD and Alzheimer’s disease.

Torres (pharmacological activity of Mexican flora)

Watkins is a Herbal Medicine Practitioner and graduate student. The focus of her PhD thesis is antimicrobial herbal formulations from native British plants used for wound-healing as specified in ancient medical texts of 10th century Anglo-Saxon England.

Webb is an internationally renowned author (Dietary supplements and functional foods. Blackwell 2012 2nd Edn; Nutrition: a health promotion approach, 3rd Edn Arnold 2008 as well as 3 other books, published in many languages. His earlier laboratory work focused on obesity in preclinical models and recent research contributions relate to diet, lifestyle and health.
The Group hosts the Journal of Herbal Medicine, published by Elsevier, Germany.

Research and scholarly activities

Research and scholarly activity undertaken to date and work in progress is summarised under two broad areas of interest: ethnomedicine and drug discovery and dietary supplements and functional foods

Dietary supplements and functional foods, Ethnomedicine and drug discovery.


The MRG possesses, or has access to cell culture and proteomics facilities, analytical and preparative TLC and HPLC-UV, DAD, LC-MS, GC-MS, AAS and FTIR spectroscopy, flow cytometry, DNA profiling facilities and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) via collaborations with University of London partners.


  • Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
  • Nature's Laboratory Ltd
  • National Toxicology Laboratory
  • The UK Drug Control Centre, King's College London
  • Imperial College London, Department of Biomolecular Medicine
  • Dr N Veitch, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew
  • Prof P Beh, University of Hong Kong
  • Dr K Busia, University of Ghana, Accra. 
  • Prof D Gammon, School of Chemistry, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Dr JL Griffin, University of Cambridge
  • Prof G Hawkes, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, QMUL
  • Prof P Hylands, Department of Pharmacy, King’s College London
  • Dr LM Pena-Rodriguez, CICY, Mexico
  • Dr M Spraul, Bruker Biospin, Germany
  • Dr P Stevenson, Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich
  • The National Institute of Medical Herbalists
  • Elsevier Ltd, Germany



  • Adebola O, Corcoran O and Morgan WA. (2013) Protective effects of prebiotics inulin and lactulose from cytotoxicity and genotoxicity in human colon adenocarcinoma cells. Food Research International, Accepted 12 March 2013.
  • SN Osei-Djarbeng, O Corcoran, SJ Cutler and RR Cutler. (2012) Antimicrobial and anti-quorum sensing activities of some Ghanaian medicinal plants. International Journal of Indigenous Medicinal Plants. 28:221-226.
  • F Watkins, B Pendry, A Sanchez-Medina and O Corcoran. (2012) Antimicrobial assays of three native British plants used in Anglo-Saxon medicine for wound healing formulations in 10th century England. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 144:408-415.
  • Hesketh S., Thompsett A.R., Brown D.R. (2012) Prion protein polymerisation triggered by Manganese-generated prion protein seeds. J Neurochem, 120, 177-89.
  • I Brunetta , SO Casalotti , IR Hart, A Forge, LE Reynolds. (2012) beta3-integrin is required for differentiation in OC-2 cells derived from mammalian embryonic inner ear. BMC Cell Biol. 2012 Mar 17;13(1):5.
  • Bolton,C.,  Wood, E.G.,. Ayoub, S.S. (2012) N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor involvement in central nervous system prostaglandin production during the relapse phase of chronic relapsing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (CR EAE), Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology, doi: 10.1111/j.1472-8206.2012.01050.x
  • Shiu, W. K. P., Rahman, M. M., Curry, J., Stapleton, P., Zloh, M., Malkinson, J. P. and Gibbons, S. (2012) Antibacterial acylphloroglucinols from Hypericum olympicum L. cf. uniflorum Journal of Natural Products 75(3), 336–343.
  • SS Ayoub, EG Wood, SU Hassan, C Bolton. (2011) Cyclooxygenase expression and prostaglandin levels in central nervous system tissues during the course of chronic relapsing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Inflammation Research 60(10): 919-928.
  • J Gao, WA Morgan, A Sanchez-Medina and O. Corcoran (2011) The ethanol extract of Scutellaria baicalensis and its active compounds induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis including upregulation of p53 and BAX in human lung cancer cells. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. 254:221-228.
  • MacLennan, Euan and Pendry, Barbara A. (2011) The evolution of herbal medicine as an unorthodox branch of British Medicine: The role of English legislation from 1914 to the present day. Journal of Herbal Medicine vol 1 ; 35-41.
  • MacLennan, Euan and Pendry, Barbara A. (2011) The evolution of herbal medicine as an unorthodox branch of British Medicine: The role of English legislation from antiquity to 1914. Journal of Herbal Medicine vol 1 ; 2-14.
  • SS Ayoub, G Pryce, MP Seed, C Bolton, RJ Flower, D Baker. (2011) Paracetamol-Induced Hypothermia Is Independent of Cannabinoids and Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid-1 and Is Not Mediated by AM404. Drug Metabolism and Disposition 39(9): 1689-1695.
  • A Adetutu, WA Morgan and O. Corcoran. (2011) Ethnopharmacological survey and in vitro evaluation of medicinal plants used for wound-healing in South-western Nigeria. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 137:50-56.
  • SS Ayoub, A Joshi, M Chol, DW Gilroy, MP Seed. (2011) Inhibition of the diclofenac-induced cyclooxygenase-2 activity by paracetamol in cultured macrophages is not related to the intracellular lipid hydroperoxide tone. Fundamental and Clinical Pharmacology. 25(2):185-190.
  • Ioannou, E., Quesada, A., Rahman, M. M., Gibbons, S., Vagias, C. and Roussis, V. (2011) Dolabellnes with antibacterial activity from the brown alga Dilophus spiralis, Journal of Natural Products 74 (2), 213-222.
  • Delazar, A., Delnavazi, M. R., Nahar, L., Moghadam, S. B., Mojarab, M., Gupta, A., Williams, A. S., Rahman, M. M. and Sarker, S. D. (2011) Lavandulifolioside B: a new phenylethanoid glycoside from the aerial parts of Stachys lavandulifolia Vahl. Natural Product Research 25 (1), 8–16.
  • Garvey, M.I., Rahman M.M., Gibbons S. and Piddock L.J.V. (2011) Medicinal plant extracts with efflux inhibitory activity against Gram-negative bacteria. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents 37 145-151
  • F Watkins, B Pendry, O Corcoran and A Sanchez-Medina. (2011) Anglo-Saxon pharmacopoeia revisited: a potential treasure in drug discovery, Drug Discovery Today. 16: 23/24 1069-1075.
  • A Adetutu, WA Morgan and O. Corcoran. (2011) Antibacterial, antioxidant and fibroblast growth stimulation activity for crude extracts of Bridelia ferruginea, a wound-healing plant of Nigeria. Journal of Ethnopharmacology,133: 116-119.
  • J Gao, H Zhao. PJ Hylands and O. Corcoran. (2010) Secondary metabolite mapping identifies Scutellaria inhibitors of human lung cancer cells. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, 53:723-728.
  • Escobedo-Martínez, C., Cruz-Morales, S., Fragoso-Serrano, M., Rahman, M.M., Gibbons, S. Pereda-Miranda, R. (2010). Characterization of a Xylose Containing Oligosaccharide, an Inhibitor of Multidrug Resistance in Staphylococcus aureus, from Ipomoea pes-caprae. Phytochemistry 71:1796-801.
  • Piddock, L.J.V., Garvey, M.I., Rahman M.M. and Gibbons S. (2010). Trimethoprim and epinephrine behave as inhibitors of efflux in Gram negative bacteria. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 65(6):1215-23.
  • MJ Stables, J Newson, SS Ayoub, J Brown, CJ Hyams, DW Gilroy. (2010). Priming innate immune responses to infection by cyclooxygenase inhibition kills antibiotic-susceptible and -resistant bacteria. Blood. 116(16): 2950-2959.
  • S Yazid, SS Ayoub, E Solito, S McArthur, P Vo, N Dufton, RJ Flower. (2010) Anti-allergic drugs and the Annexin-A1 system. Pharmacological reports. 62(3): 511-517.
  • Smyrniotopoulos, V., Vagias, C., Rahman, M. M., Gibbons, S. and Roussis, V. (2010) Structure and Antibacterial Activity of Brominated Diterpenes from the Red Alga Sphaerococcus coronopifolius, Chemistry and Biodiversity 7 (1): 186-195.
  • Smyrniotopoulos, V., Vagias, C., Rahman, M. M., Gibbons, S. and Roussis, V. (2010) Ioniols I and II, tetracyclic diterpenes with antibacterial activity from Sphaerococcus coronopifolius, Chemistry and Biodiversity 7 (3): 666-676.
  • Wang, W., Zeng, Y. H., Osman, K., Shinde, K., Rahman, M. M., Gibbons, S. and Mu, Q. (2010) Norlignans, acylphloroglucinols and a dimeric xanthone from Hypericum chinense, Journal of Natural Products 73 (11), 1815–1820.
  • Meades Jr., G., Henken, R. L., Waldrop, G. L., Rahman, M. M., Gilman, S. D., Kamatou, G. P. P., Viljoen, A. M. and Gibbons, S. (2010) Constituents of Cinnamon Inhibit Bacterial Acetyl CoA Carboxylase Planta Medica 76 (14):1570-1575.
  • Begum, R., Chowdhury, A. M. S., Rahman, M. S., Rahman, M. M., Gibbons, S. and Rashid, M. A. (2010) A New 7-oxygenated coumarin from Clausena suffruticosa, Fitoterapia 81 (6): 656-658.
  • A Sánchez-Medina, LM Peña-Rodríguez, F May-Pat, G Karagianis, PG Waterman, AI Mallet and S Habtemariam. (2010) “Identification of sakurasosaponin as a cytotoxic principle from Jacquinia flammea” Nat. Prod. Commun 5:365-368.
  • S. Cobb, R Heaney, O Corcoran and SK Henderson-Begg. (2010) Using mobile phones to increase classroom interaction. AACE Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia,19(2): 147-157.
  • GP Webb. (2009) Interpreting nutritional science - what have we learnt from the past? Nutrition Bulletin 34, 309-315.
  • Ayoub, S.S., Botting, R.M., Joshi, A.N., Seed, M.P., Colville-Nash, P.R. (2009) Activation of macrophage peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-c by diclofenac results in the induction of cyclooxygenase-2 protein and the synthesis of anti-inflammatory cytokines, Mol Cell Biochem, 327, pp. 101–110.
  • S. Cobb, R Heaney, O Corcoran and S Henderson-Begg. (2009) The learning gains and student perceptions of a second life virtual lab. Bioscience Education,13, 
  • A Sanchez-Medina, PC Stevenson, S Habtemariam, LM Pena-Rodriguez, O Corcoran, TA Mallet and NC Veitch. (2009)Triterpenoid saponins from the cytotoxic root extract of Sideroxylon foetidissimum, subsp. gaumeri. Phytochemistry, 70:765-772.
  • A Sanchez-Medina, PC Stevenson, S Habtemariam, LM Pena-Rodriguez, O Corcoran, TA Mallet and NC Veitch. (2008)Triterpenoid saponins from the cytotoxic root extract of Sideroxylon foetidissimum, an endemic Yucatecan medicinal plant. Planta Medica, 74(9):908-909.   
  • Gao J, Sanchez-Medina A, Pendry BA, Hughes MJ, Webb GP and Corcoran O. (2008) Validation of a HPLC method for flavonoid biomarkers in skullcap (Scutellaria) and its use to illustrate wide variability in the quality of commercial tinctures. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 11 (1) 77-87.
  • Ayoub,S.S., Yazid, S. and Flower, R.J. (2008) Increased susceptibility of annexin-A1 null mice to nociceptive pain is indicative of a spinal antinociceptive action of annexin-A1, British Journal of Pharmacology, 154, pp. 1135–1142.
  • WA Morgan, NK Thanh and Y Ding. The use of High Performance Thin-Layer Chromatography to determine the role of membrane lipid composition in bile salt-induced kidney cell damage (2008) J. Pharmacological and Toxicological methods. 57:1, 70-73.

Contact us

General inquiries to the Medicines Research Group can be made to Stratford Campus:

Dr Olivia Corcoran 
Tel: +44 (0) 208 223 4034 

University of East London, Stratford Campus
Romford Road
E15 4LZ