Dr Amir Ashoorzadeh



I am a senior synthetic organic chemist with 15 years of research experience in the field of medicinal chemistry at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC). I obtained my BSc, MSc and PhD degrees in Chemistry from the University of Auckland. My work is particularly focused on the design and synthesis of a variety of bioreductive Prodrugs for Human Cancer Therapy. This includes nitroheterocyclic derivatives that are selectively activated by endogenous human enzymes under hypoxia, or derivatives that are activated in an oxygen independent manner by exogenous bacterial nitroreductase enzymes. I have considerable experience in the synthesis of bioreductively activated cytotoxins, nitromethyl quaternary ammonium salt prodrugs of mulitikinase inhibitors, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging agents, and fluorogenic probes for detecting nitroreductase expression. These compounds have demonstrated utility as anti-tumour agents and for the non-invasive imaging of both tumour hypoxia and the delivery of exogenous genes via gene therapy methods.

As a senior synthetic chemist, I have made significant contributions to a number of projects that have resulted in the discovery of drug candidates for human clinical trial.

For a number of years I have been actively involved in the design and synthesis of next-generation PR-104 analogues. This research has led to the identification of CP-506, a hypoxia-selective cytotoxin for human cancer therapy that has been assigned to Convert Pharmaceuticals (Belgium). CP-506 is currently undergoing investigational new drug enabling studies, including process development and GMP synthesis of CP-506 according to the synthetic methods I developed. In addition, I synthesised SN36008, an AKR1C3-activated prodrug that was out-licensed by Auckland UniServices in 2014.

I am also an associate investigator of the Maurice Wilkins Centre (MWC) for Molecular Biodiscovery. I have published 14 peer reviewed journal articles, 24 conference proceedings and 10 international PCT applications. These patent applications have led to 15 national phase entry applications and 9 granted patents to date, indicating the degree of commercial investment that has been generated in support of my research.

Research interests

Areas of expertise

Organic Synthetic Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

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  • Rich, M. H., Sharrock, A., Ashoorzadeh, A., Patterson, A., Smaill, J. B., & Ackerley, D. F. (2020). Directed evolution of theB. subtilisnitroreductase YfkO improves activation of the PET-capable probe SN33623 and CB1954 prodrug. BIOTECHNOLOGY LETTERS10.1007/s10529-020-02992-0
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Adam Patterson, Jeff Smaill
  • Mowday, A. M., Lieuwes, N. G., Biemans, R., Gehlen, R., Guise, C. P., Ashoorzadeh, A., ... Lambin, P. (2020). Bugs as Trojan Horses to Target Necrotic Tumors. Paper presented at 23rd Annual Meeting of the American-Society-for-Gene-and-Cell-Therapy, ELECTR NETWORK. 12 May - 15 May 2020. MOLECULAR THERAPY. (pp. 2).
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jeff Smaill
  • Mowday, A. M., Copp, J. N., Syddall, S. P., Dubois, L. J., Wang, J., Lieuwes, N. G., ... Williams, E. M. (2020). E. coli nitroreductase NfsA is a reporter gene for non-invasive PET imaging in cancer gene therapy applications. Theranostics, 10 (23), 10548-10562. 10.7150/thno.46826
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Adam Patterson, Jeff Smaill
  • Mowday, A. M., Lieuwes, N. G., Biemans, R., Guise, C. P., Ashoorzadeh, A., Zygouropoulou, M., ... Smaill, J. B. (2019). Targeting the tumour microenvironment with anaerobic bacteria. Paper presented at ESGCT 27th Annual Congress in collaboration with SETGyc Meeting, Barcelona, SPAIN. 22 October - 25 October 2019. HUMAN GENE THERAPY. (pp. 2).
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jeff Smaill, Adam Patterson
  • Williams, E. M., Rich, M. H., Mowday, A. M., Ashoorzadeh, A., Copp, J. N., Guise, C. P., ... Patterson, A. V. (2019). Engineering Escherichia coli NfsB To Activate a Hypoxia-Resistant Analogue of the PET Probe EF5 To Enable Non-Invasive Imaging during Enzyme Prodrug Therapy. Biochemistry, 58 (35), 3700-3710. 10.1021/acs.biochem.9b00376
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jeff Smaill, Adam Patterson, Jack Flanagan
  • Deschoemaeker, S., Thiolloy, S., Gilissen, J., Stampella, A., Dubois, L., Yaromina, A., ... Abbattista, M. (2018). CP-506, a next-generation hypoxia-activated prodrug, as a promising novel anti-cancer therapeutic. Paper presented at 30th EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium, Dublin, IRELAND. 13 November - 16 November 2018. EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF CANCER. (pp. 1).
  • Thiolloy, S., Deschoemaeker, S., Ongenae, N., Gilissen, J., Dubois, L., Yaromina, A., ... Lambin, P. (2018). CP-506, a next generation hypoxia-activated prodrug, as promising novel anti-cancer therapeutic. Paper presented at Annual Meeting of the American-Association-for-Cancer-Research (AACR), Chicago, IL. 14 April - 18 April 2018. CANCER RESEARCH. (pp. 2). 10.1158/1538-7445.AM2018-4959
  • Niemans, R., Yaromina, A., Theys, J., Marcus, D., Ashoorzadeh, A., Abbattista, M., ... Deschoemaeker, S. (2018). EP-2327: Hypoxic cell killing by CP-506, a novel hypoxia-activated prodrug. Radiotherapy and Oncology. 10.1016/S0167-8140(18)32636-7
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/45391
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jeff Smaill, Adam Patterson

Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 504 - Bldg 504
Level 1, Room 122
New Zealand