I.J.P. de Esch

prof. dr.

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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 - present

Ancillary activities are updated daily

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where I.J.P. de Esch is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

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Research Output 1997 2019

Alkynamide phthalazinones as a new class of TbrPDEB1 inhibitors

de Heuvel, E., Singh, A. K., Edink, E., van der Meer, T., van der Woude, M., Sadek, P., Krell-Jørgensen, M. P., van den Bergh, T., Veerman, J., Caljon, G., Kalejaiye, T. D., Wijtmans, M., Maes, L., de Koning, H. P., Jan Sterk, G., Siderius, M., de Esch, I. J. P., Brown, D. G. & Leurs, R., 18 Jun 2019, In : Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry. p. 1-15 15 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Trypanosoma brucei brucei
Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases
Cyclic Nucleotides

Alkynamide phthalazinones as a new class of TbrPDEB1 inhibitors (Part 2)

de Heuvel, E., Singh, A. K., Boronat, P., Kooistra, A. J., van der Meer, T., Sadek, P., Blaazer, A. R., Shaner, N. C., Bindels, D. S., Caljon, G., Maes, L., Sterk, G. J., Siderius, M., Oberholzer, M., de Esch, I. J. P., Brown, D. G. & Leurs, R., 15 Sep 2019, In : Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry. 27, 18, p. 4013-4029 17 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
African Trypanosomiasis
Trypanosoma brucei brucei

A Photoswitchable Agonist for the Histamine H 3 Receptor, a Prototypic Family A G-Protein-Coupled Receptor

Hauwert, N. J., Mocking, T. A. M., Da Costa Pereira, D., Lion, K., Huppelschoten, Y., Vischer, H. F., De Esch, I. J. P., Wijtmans, M. & Leurs, R., 26 Mar 2019, In : Angewandte Chemie - International Edition. 58, 14, p. 4531-4535 5 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Histamine Agonists
G-Protein-Coupled Receptors
Chemical activation

Community assessment to advance computational prediction of cancer drug combinations in a pharmacogenomic screen

AstraZeneca-Sanger Drug Combination DREAM Consortium, 1 Dec 2019, In : Nature Communications. 10, 1, 2674.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Drug Combinations

Identification of Phenylpyrazolone Dimers as a New Class of Anti-Trypanosoma cruzi Agents

Sijm, M., Siciliano de Araújo, J., Ramos Llorca, A., Orrling, K., Stiny, L., Matheeussen, A., Maes, L., de Esch, I. J. P., de Nazaré Correia Soeiro, M., Sterk, G. J. & Leurs, R., 1 Jan 2019, In : ChemMedChem.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Trypanosoma cruzi
Chagas Disease


Galenus research price 2011

I.J.P. de Esch (Recipient), 27 Jun 2011