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Personal profile

Research interests

I use medicinal chemistry to develop a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying neuropsychological diseases, in particular drug abuse, but also including depression and anxiety. To this end, both highly selective ligands and, more recently, ligands targeted at multiple receptors are designed and synthesized, along with specific pharmacological tools such as irreversible and radiolabeled ligands which allow us to study changes in the chemistry of the brain. Manipulation of the duration of activity of ligands has also been a theme within recent years. I am also interested in the therapeutic potential of such compounds, in particular the group is continuing to study, with the help of funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the utility of opioid ligands as treatment agents for opioid, cocaine and other drugs of abuse and the use of opioid ligands in the treatment of depression. The most important work within the group has been towards ‘selectively promiscuous’ ligands and has been driven by the realisation that CNS disorders are rarely simple, requiring complex solutions. Particular success, and impact, has been achieved in delineating the molecular descriptors that are crucial to the unique pharmacological profile displayed by the opioid treatment agent buprenorphine. This work has allowed us to develop ligands that target multiple opioid receptors simultaneously, with some control over efficacy at each receptor. Current targets include the mu, kappa and NOP opioid receptors and, separately, Regulators of G protein Signaling (RGS) proteins. All our work is carried out in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Bath, the University of Michigan, Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, Imperial College and the University of Bristol. Current and recent funding for our work has come from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Medical Research Council and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Strathclyde


  • QD Chemistry
  • Opioid
  • medicinal chemistry
  • chemical biology
  • CNS
  • cystic fibrosis

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mu Opioid Receptor Medicine & Life Sciences
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kappa Opioid Receptor Medicine & Life Sciences
Ligands Medicine & Life Sciences
Opioid Analgesics Medicine & Life Sciences
Narcotic Antagonists Medicine & Life Sciences
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Naltrexone Medicine & Life Sciences

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Projects 2007 2020

Chemical Biology of Cellular Signalling

Husbands, S.


Project: UK charity

Drug Therapy for Cystic Fibrosis

Husbands, S.


Project: UK charity

PET Imaging of Human Brain Gliosis

Husbands, S.


Project: Research council


Research Output 2001 2018

3 Citations
Open Access
kappa Opioid Receptor
Narcotic Antagonists
mu Opioid Receptor
Open Access
kappa Opioid Receptor
Narcotic Antagonists
Opioid Receptors
Opioid Analgesics
1 Citations

The novel μ-opioid receptor agonist PZM21 depresses respiration and induces tolerance to antinociception

Hill, R., Disney, A., Conibear, A., Sutcliffe, K., Dewey, W., Husbands, S., Bailey, C., Kelly, E. & Henderson, G., 1 Jul 2018, In : British Journal of Pharmacology. 175, 13, p. 2653-2661 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
mu Opioid Receptor
Tidal Volume

Additive effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and compassionate imagery on self-compassion in recreational users of ecstasy

Kamboj, S. K., Wallden, Y. S. E., Falconer, C. J., Alotaibi, M. R. M., Blagbrough, I., Husbands, S. & Freeman, T., 6 Nov 2017, In : Mindfulness. 9, 4, p. 1134-1145 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Imagery (Psychotherapy)
facial expression