Personal profile

Personal information

  • Professor Drug Design & Synthesis in the division of Medicinal Chemistry
  • Head of Department Chemistry & Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Founding scientist of De Novo Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (1999)
  • Founding scientist of IOTA Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (2008)
  • Founding scientist of Griffin Discoveries B.V. (2009)



The research of prof. De Esch aims to understand and predict interactions between biologically active substances and their molecular targets, such as receptors and enzymes. The group makes extensive use of Computer-Aided Drug Design (CADD) approaches and structural biology insights. New ligands are designed and synthesized in the organic chemistry laboratories that are equipped with state-of-the-art synthesis equipment and all the necessary analytical chemistry tools. The group is developing and using Fragment-Based Drug Design (FBDD) approaches as this represents an exciting, highly efficient and design-intensive approach that can be applied to many different molecular targets. Various protein classes are being interrogated,  including, amongst others, GPCRs, PDEs, AChBP and LGICs, protein-protein interactions, kinases and others. Next to hit finding, the group has ample experience in hit and lead optimization that results in pre-clinical drug candidates that are studied in various disease models within the research institute AIMMS, the VU University Medical Center Amsterdam and various (inter)national collaborations.


Valorisation and education
Prof. De Esch is co-founder of three spin-off biotech companies, illustrating the valorisation potential of his research. Moreover, he is involved in Science, Business & Innovation research, that focuses on the valorisation of scientific knowledge. De Esch’s scientific and valorisation expertise also plays an important role in the Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Drug Discovery & Safety, Science, Business & Innovation and at the Amsterdam University College.


Prof. De Esch studied Organic Chemistry at Radboud University Nijmegen. From 1994 to 1998, he performed his PhD studies at the Department of Pharmacochemistry at VU University (promotor: prof. Timmerman) and at the University of Cambridge. Subsequently, he performed post-doctoral research in the Drug Design Group at the University of Cambridge (UK). The research of this academic group resulted in the biotech De Novo Pharmaceuticals, which De Esch co-founded in 2000 and where he worked as a group leader and project leader.

He returned to academia in 2003 and became assistant and subsequently associate professor in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry at VU University. He established the successful research line fragment-based drug design and became co-founder of the spin-offs IOTA Pharmaceuticals (2007) en Griffin Discoveries (2009). In 2011, he was awarded the Galenus Research Price for his work on fragment-based drug discovery and the valorisation of his research. Prof. De Esch has received many research grants, amongst others from Top Institute Pharma, Technology Foundation STW, EU-FP7 and the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). He is the coordinator of a large European network called FRAGNET that aims to further develop fragment-based drug design approaches.


Ancillary activities

  • Griffin Discoveries BV | Amsterdam | Mede-oprichter | 2014-04-01

Last update Ancillary Activities: Amsterdam (2018-02-20)

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Research Output 1997 2017

1.15 - Structural Chemogenomics Databases to Navigate Protein–Ligand Interaction Space

Kanev, G. K., Kooistra, A. J., de Esch, I. J. P. & de Graaf, C. 2017 1.15 - Structural Chemogenomics Databases to Navigate Protein–Ligand Interaction Space. Comprehensive Medicinal Chemistry III ed. Elsvier, Vol. 1, p. 444-471

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewChapter

3D-e-Chem-VM: Structural Cheminformatics Research Infrastructure in a Freely Available Virtual Machine

McGuire, R., Verhoeven, S., Vass, M., Vriend, G., De Esch, I. J. P., Lusher, S. J., Leurs, R., Ridder, L., Kooistra, A. J., Ritschel, T. & de Graaf, C. 27 Feb 2017 In : Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling. 57, 2, p. 115-121 7 p.

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle

Structural Analysis of Chemokine Receptor-Ligand Interactions

Arimont, M., Sun, S-L., Leurs, R., Smit, M., De Esch, I. J. P. & de Graaf, C. 22 Jun 2017 In : Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 60, 12, p. 4735-4779 45 p.

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewReview article

4,6-diphenylpyridines as promising novel anti-influenza agents targeting the PA-PB1 protein-protein interaction: structure-activity relationships.

Trist, I. M., Nannetti, G., Tintori, C., Fallacara, A. L., Deodato, D., Mercorrelli, B., Palu, G., Wijtmans, M., Gospodova, T., Edink, E. S., Verheij, M. H. P., de Esch, I. J. P., Viteva, L., Loregian, A. & Botta, M. 2016 In : Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 59, 6, p. 2688-2703

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle

Educating the science–business professional

Retra, K., van Hoorn, P., van Gogh, A. T. M., Maas, J. N., Rozendal, I., Dekker, J. P., de Esch, I. J. P., Bossink, B. A. G. & van der Sijde, P. C. 2016 In : Industry & Higher Education. 30, 4, p. 302-309

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle