The transcription factor p53 is the main tumour suppressor in cells and many cancer types have p53 mutations resulting in a loss of its function. In tumours that retain wild-type p53 function, p53 activity is down-regulated by MDM2 (human murine double minute 2) via a direct protein-protein interaction. We have designed and synthesised two series of 2,5-diketopiperazines as inhibitors of the MDM2-p53 interaction. The first set was designed to directly mimic the α-helical region of the p53 peptide, containing key residues in the i, i+4 and i+7 positions of a natural α-helix. Conformational analysis indicated that 1,3,6-trisubstituted 2,5-diketopiperazines were able to place substituents in the same spatial orientation as an α-helix template. The key step of the synthesis involved the cyclisation of substituted dipeptides. The other set of tetrasubstituted 2,5-diketopiperazines were designed based on structure-based docking studies and the Ugi multicomponent reaction was used for the synthesis. This latter set comprised the most potent inhibitors which displayed micromolar IC50-values in a biochemical fluorescence polarisation assay.