The research area of the “Nucleosides & Phosphorylated Effectors” team, is clearly at the frontier of the chemistry and the biology, aiming to design potential therapeutic agents with original mechanism of action that will be able to selectively interfere with cellular proliferation (cancers) or infectious agents (viruses, parasites), as well as to identify new potential targets for chemotherapy. Due to historical background and cumulative knowledge, our research projects aspects involve the development of new synthetic methodologies in the field of nucleic acid constituents (heterocycles, nucleosides and nucleotides). Our investigations also concerned the design of prodrugs for site-targeting or drug delivery. More recently, we have also been interested in the development of eco-compatible synthesis methodologies allowing the preparation of phosphor(n)ylated (bio)molecules (phosphorus chemistry).

Our Themes

Nucleoside analogues and emerging viruses. The recent Covid-19 pandemic is a reminder of our vulnerability to viruses, particularly emerging RNA viruses. Alongside a prophylactic approach (vaccines), the development of antivirals capable of inhibiting viral RNA polymerase, which plays a central role in the viral replication cycle, represents a complementary therapeutic approach. Inhibition of RNA polymerase using small molecules is an essential strategy that complements vaccination, with the aim of providing effective curative treatment for severe forms of the disease. In this respect, nucleoside analogues, known for their multiple applications in antiviral treatments and their potential in antiviral chemotherapy for decades, can provide an effective therapeutic response.

Nucleoside analogues and cancer. Nucleoside analogues also represent a therapeutic family that is widely used in the treatment of haematological malignancies and certain solid tumours. Historically, the use of these compounds in antitumour chemotherapy was their first area of application. However, the emergence of resistance phenomena may limit their clinical use in certain cases. In this respect, the search for new cytotoxic nucleoside analogues may provide an effective therapeutic response in the treatment of cancers.

Malaria, also known as “swamp fever”, is an infectious disease caused by a parasite of the genus Plasmodium, spread by the bite of certain species of anopheles mosquitoes. To date, malaria remains the most important parasitosis. In view of the multi-resistance of Plasmodium to current antimalarial drugs, the search for antimalarial drugs belonging to new chemical classes is essential, and may be envisaged through the empirical screening of chemical libraries or the rational design of enzymatic inhibitors. For example, the discovery of acyclonucleoside phosphonates (ANPs) marked the start of a new era in the fight against viral infections linked in particular to human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B virus and cytomegalovirus. More recently, this family of compounds has also proved capable of interfering with other pathogens, such as the one responsible for malaria. Our research team has been involved in the design and synthesis of nucleotide analogues for many years, and we are currently developing new families of compounds including ANPs and carbocyclic phosphonate nucleoside analogues.

Because of the fundamental role of nucleosides and nucleotides in cellular life, the design of analogues is an attractive approach in chemotherapy, particularly for the treatment of cancer and viral infections. Usually, their therapeutic efficacy requires complex metabolisation to their corresponding polyphosphorylated forms (nucleotides) involving kinases and/or other activating enzymes encoded by the virus or naturally present in cells. By way of example, the resulting nucleoside 5′-triphosphates act as substrates and/or chain terminators during nucleic acid biosynthesis. The limiting step in this metabolisation process is often the first (mono-phosphorylation), so in order to circumvent this limitation, the design and synthesis of pro-drugs (prodrugs) is one of the team’s historical research areas.

Green chemistry has become a major issue in chemistry and industry. It aims to design and implement chemical processes that respect the environment, in particular by reducing the use of hazardous substances and the generation of polluting waste, by favouring renewable raw materials over exhaustible resources, and by consuming less energy. In this context, our team is developing alternative and innovative methods for synthesizing phosphorus molecules of interest (dinucleotides, bisphosphonates, etc.) with a focus on eco-compatibility, using mechanochemistry and photochemistry. Mechanochemistry enables chemical reactions to be carried out by grinding, reducing or eliminating the use of often toxic organic solvents, while improving the efficiency and implementation of syntheses. This approach is currently underdeveloped in the field of nucleotide and oligonucleotide chemistry. Photochemistry is experiencing an unprecedented boom, as it enables the preparation of high-added-value and/or sensitive molecules by radicals under relatively mild conditions. At the same time, we are interested in the synthesis of phosphorus-containing molecules using alternatives to the organic solvents normally used, in order to reduce the environmental impact of the process.

The members of the team



S. Peyrottes graduated in Chemistry from Montpellier University (France) and obtained her Ph.D. in 1995 under the direction of Dr J.J. Vasseur, where she worked on the synthesis and study of modified oligonucleotides. Then, she joined Dr. M.J. Gait at MRC (Cambridge, UK) as a Postdoctoral Fellow where she worked on the solid-phase synthesis of oligonucleotide – peptide conjugates. In 1999, she was appointed by the CNRS as junior scientist and she is currently Research Director at CNRS, working on the design of potential therapeutic agents to treat infections and cancers, while developing new synthetic methodologies related to nucleic acid components. She heads the team “Nucleosides & Phosphorylated Effectors” since 2015.

Colin Bertrand

Engineer (dsign/devt. eng. | permanent staff) ,temporary position

Thomas Cheviet

research engineer (permanent staff) ,temporary position

Dimitri Dessaint

M2 trainee

David Égron

Assistant Professor (permanent staff)

Dr. David Egron received his Ph.D. degree from the university Montpellier in 1999 under the supervision of Dr. Gilles Gosselin working on prodrugs approaches of nucleotides. After working for 2 years as a research engineer within the company Idenix Pharmaceuticals (formerly Novirio) and occupying an ATER position for 1 year,...

Anaïs Guillou

graduate student

Isabelle Lefèbvre-Tournier

Full Professor (permanent staff)

MATHé Christophe
Christophe Mathé

Full Professor (permanent staff)

NAVARRO Valentin
Valentin Navarro

graduate student

PéRIGAUD Christian
Christian Périgaud

Full Professor (permanent staff)

Christian Périgaud obtained his Ph.D. (1991) at the University of Montpellier with G. Gosselin in the laboratory of Pr. J.-L. Imbach working on nucleoside chemistry. Back to Montpellier after a postdoctoral work with Pr. J.-P. Sommadossi, he was appointed as associate professor (1993), then professor (2001). He was the group...

Suzanne Peyrottes

Senior Scientist (permanent staff)

S. Peyrottes graduated in Chemistry from Montpellier University (France) and obtained her Ph.D. in 1995 under the direction of Dr J.J. Vasseur, where she worked on the synthesis and study of modified oligonucleotides. Then, she joined Dr. M.J. Gait at MRC (Cambridge, UK) as a Postdoctoral Fellow where she worked...

Sonia Rouanet

Technical Adjunct (permanent staff)

Ms. S. Rouanet has been working at the University of Montpellier since December 2004, as a technical research and training assistant. She was promoted to Research and Training Technician in 2023. In 2006, she joined IBMM where 50% of her activity is carried out within the Department of Analogues and...

ROY Béatrice
Béatrice Roy

Full Professor (permanent staff)

Prof. Béatrice Roy obtained a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Grenoble (France) in 1993 where she worked under the supervision of Prof. M. Fontecave on the design of inhibitors of ribonucleotide reductase. She pursued postdoctoral studies first at the University of Grenoble, and then at the University...

Team Publications