Douglas R. Houston, PhD

Principal Investigator

Contact details



Rm 2.12 Waddington 1 building
Institute of Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology
School of Biological Sciences
King's Buildings

Post code


2016-Present    Senior Lecturer in Computational Biochemistry, University of Edinburgh

2011-2016    Lecturer in Computational Biochemistry, University of Edinburgh

2009-2011    Scientific Program Coordinator, University of Edinburgh

2009    Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Edinburgh

2005-2008    Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University, Montreal

2001-2005    PhD Student, University of Dundee

2001-2004    CASE Researcher, Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals Inc., Dundee


Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

PhD Biochemistry (X-Ray Crystallography, Inhibitor Studies, Essential Dynamics, Virtual Screening), Dundee University

BSc (Hons) Biochemistry, University Edinburgh

Undergraduate teaching

Current Roles (2022-2023)

Discovery 1c (SBS 1st Year)

Structures and Functions of Proteins (Biochemistry 3rd Year)

Biochemical Techniques (Biochemistry Hons)

Structural Biology (Biochemistry Hons)

Novel Approaches (Biotechnology Hons)

Enzymology and Biological Production (Biotechnology Hons)

Biotechnology Industrial Visits and Core Skills (Biotechnology Hons)

Convener of Biotechnology Hons Exam Board

Supervisor of 1 Hons research project student

Personal Tutor

Mental Health First Aider for IQB3

Postgraduate teaching

Current Roles (2022-2023)

Programming for the Life Sciences (Biochemistry MSc) - Course Organiser and Sole Lecturer

Introduction to Python Programming for Data Science (Drug Discovery and Translational Biology MSc / Data Science for Biology MSc / Data Science and Technology Innovation MSc / Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences MSc  / Data Upskilling Short Courses [Data-Driven Innovation Programme]) - Course Organiser

Biochemistry A (Biochemistry MSc)

Biochemistry B (Biochemistry MSc)

Industry and Entrepreneurship (Biotechnology MSc)

Member of Biochemistry MSc Exam Board

Mental Health First Aider for IQB3


Co-author of 9 (+2 in preparation) peer-reviewed publications with current and former Summer, Hons and MSc research project students  

Supervisor of 5 MSc research project students 

Edinburgh University Students' Association Teacher of the Year Nominee 2022-23 & 2023-24


Member of the EASTBIO Transformative Technologies PhD interview panel 

Senior PostGraduate Adviser (PGA) for IQB3

Internal Examiner of 3 PhD theses/vivas

External Examiner of 2 PhD theses/vivas

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

Also open to enquiries about MRes (MScR) project supervision, including from the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Research summary

Contributed to 6 peer-reviewed scientific publications proposed for inclusion in REF 2021.


Virtual screening technology development

Methods development; improving the speed, efficiency and hit rates of ligand- and structure-based in silico (virtual) screening techniques through the implementation of Data Science, Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence.


Example Project: Probing the roles and mechanisms of AAA+ enzymes through chemical biology

Virtual screening and molecular modelling of AAA+ oncoproteins to identify small molecule modulators of complex assembly and activity. In collaboration with Profs. Nicholas Westwood (University of St Andrews), Ted Hupp (Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre), Malcom Walkinshaw (Centre for Chemical Biology), Peter Chi (National Taiwan University) and Marc Mansour (University College London Hospital).


Current research interests

Drug discovery is the ultimate in interdisciplinary endeavours. Successfully bringing a hit molecule through the lead optimisation process to market requires understanding of pathology, physiology, cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, cheminformatics (and lately, machine and deep learning), medicinal chemistry, patent law, medicine, business management, and marketing.

Past research interests

Computer Aided Design of foldamer inhibitors of high-priority cancer targets; design of stapled peptide E3 ligase protein-protein interaction disruptors through Molecular Dynamics and full-flexibility protein-ligand docking. In collaboration with Prof Ted Hupp (Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre) and Prof Alison Hulme (School of Chemistry, UoE). Discovery and design of anthelmintics; Computer Aided Discovery of inhibitors of the essential cuticle shedding phase of the nematode parasite lifecycle. In collaboration with Prof Malcolm Walkinshaw (IQB3, UoE) and Prof Anthony Page (University of Glasgow).

Knowledge exchange

Invited Speaker: Houston, DR. (2021). “Computational Tools to Aid Rational Drug Design”. International Conference on Drug Discovery and Translational Medicine.

Invited Speaker/Panelist: Houston, DR. (2020) “How to deliver biomolecular science Honours research projects with limited lab bench time”. Biochemical Society Focus webinar series, 2020. 

Invited Speaker: Houston, DR. (2019). "The utility of consensus approaches in virtual drug discovery" [Video file]. In The Biomedical & Life Sciences Collection, Henry Stewart Talks. Retrieved November 29, 2019, from

Poster Presenter: Houston, DR (2018). "CODASS: Using virtual screening to target protein-peptide interactions",  Innovation, Collaboration, and Entrepreneurship in Drug Discovery Conference, University of Cambridge

Invited Speaker: Houston, DR. (2017). “Virtual approaches to early stage drug discovery”, CMVM-SBS Cross-School Symposium, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh

Speaker: Houston, DR. (2015). "Combining Experiment and Simulation", 4th Annual CCP-BioSim Conference - Frontiers of Biomolecular Simulation, Leeds

Research activities

View all 6 activities on Research Explorer

Project activity

CACHE2 competition participant

CACHE3 competition participant

The CACHE Challenges are similar to CASP (of AlphaFold fame), but the prize is for the accurate prediction of protein-ligand binding rather than protein structure.



Recipient of 5 HecBioSim facility awards for compute time on ARCHER2, the UK's national supercomputer:


Current Collaborations (2023)

Sander Granemman, Associate Professor, IQB3, UoE:

Michał R. Szymański, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Gdansk:

Marc Mansour, Professor, UCL Hospital:

Simon Wilkinson, Reader, Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre:

Jeyaprakash Arulanandam, Wellcome Senior Research Fellow, WCCB, UoE:

Malcolm Walkinshaw, Professor, WCCB, UoE:

Richard Lathe, Professor, Edinburgh Medical School:

View all 44 publications on Research Explorer

Qualified Gym Instructor (Active IQ Level 2)

Qualified Motorcycle Mechanic (SCQF Level 4)

SACU licensed motorcycle track rider & winner of Knockhill Man of the Track 2013

Licensed Light Drone Operator (Civil Aviation Authority)

Married 09/2020 with one child born 11/2022, and owner of one very large labradoodle called Rollo.