The University Of Sheffield

New technology for identification of novel molecules for drug discovery

R & D collaboration between the Faculty of Science and the Farfield Group


“It has been very useful to have this opportunity to access the University of Sheffield’s chemistry and biology expertise, and we look forward to developing our relationship in the future.”
Dr Marcus Swann, Chief Scientific Officer at Farfield

The Challenge
The Farfield Group is a global supplier of analytical instruments. One of their areas of expertise is in dual-polarization interferometry (DPI), which is used to measure changes in protein structure in real time.

If a protein becomes mutated in a human cell it often leads to the onset of disease. DPI measurements can be used in order to gain a better understanding of how mutated proteins interact with drugs. This in turn can be used to design new treatments for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Since DPI is a rapid technique, taking only minutes, it could greatly advance healthcare screening. In order to do so, some underlying scientific issues with refining the technique needed to be solved.

The Collaboration
The combination of Prof Carl Smythe’s expertise in cell biology and protein chemistry and Prof Graham Leggett’s knowledge of surface science matched perfectly with Farfield’s research requirements. Funding was secured to kick off a research collaboration between the company and the academics.

The Result
Profs Smythe and Leggett helped Farfield overcome issues with how proteins attach and align on the silicon chip inside the DPI instrument, in order to increase the sensitivity of measurements.

This paves the way for further exploration into the commercial suitability of DPI for drug discovery. The commercialisation of this new advance is now underway, along with further refinements of DPI technology.

Farfield are now well on their way to producing commercially viable DPI instruments with increased sensitivity for use in evaluating the potential of new drugs to treat disease. The collaboration has supported the development of personal relationships connecting Farfield to the University’s world-class molecular biology expertise.

Prof Smythe and Leggett have gained an increased awareness of the connections between their interests and the pharmaceutical industry. New techniques arising from the collaboration also form the basis of scientific publications.

You can also download the Smythe Farfield case study.

For more information about the Department of Biomedical Sciences or the Farfield Group please see and

This project was funded through the Knowledge Transfer Account from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.