Darby Brooke

Scientist – Research and Development

Note: Darby Brooke does not currently work at the Cawthron Institute.


  • BSc (Hons), Chemistry. University of Canterbury, 1996
  • PhD, Synthetic Organic Chemistry. University of Canterbury, 2003

Background and role at Cawthron

Darby is a synthetic organic/medicinal chemist who joined the Cawthron in 2013, as a member of the Research and Development team. He was previously a Research Fellow at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, one of the world's leading anti-cancer drug development laboratories, where he worked for over ten years across a wide range of projects, often in collaboration with international commercial or academic groups.

During his PhD, he developed the first total synthesis of hydroxystrobilurin A (a member of the strobilurin family of fungicidal natural products, which are produced by a variety of fungal species worldwide), based on the utilization of palladium-catalyzed carbon-carbon bond-forming methodologies.

His drug development experience includes the elaboration of hits from high-throughput screens of small-molecule chemical libraries into sets of analogues, to explore the structure-activity relationships around leads and generate more biologically active and drug-like candidates. He has also worked as a freelance editor of scientific manuscripts, prior to their being submitted for publication.

Darby is particularly interested in the synthesis and semi-synthesis of biologically active molecules, including in the development of natural-product based compounds as possible treatments for disease, and in the use of novel chemical reagents and structural units in this process.

Technical skills, experience and interests

  • synthetic organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry
  • total synthesis and semi-synthesis of natural products and analogues
  • drug development
  • NMR spectroscopy
  • scientific writing/editing

Publication links

+64 3 548 2319 ext 360