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Operations Committee

H3D’s operations committee (OpsCom) is responsible for the day to day operational management of H3D and for implementing its strategy and business plans.

Dr Susan Winks

Head of Research Operations and Business Development

Susan Winks obtained her BSc with distinction in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the
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University of Cape Town in 2004 and later her BSc(Hons) degree in 2005 also from the University of Cape Town. She came top of her class for honours, winning herself the James Mohr Medal. In 2006 she moved to Johannesburg where she studied her PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand under the supervision of Prof. Jo Michael. During the following 4 years Susan worked as a Teaching Assistant and lectured chemistry to undergraduates. At the end of 2009 Susan completed her PhD entitled “Vinylogous Sulfonamides in the Total Synthesis of Indolizidine Alkaloids from Amphibians and Ants”.

In 2010 Susan started working as a research scientist at Ithemba Pharmaceuticals Ptd Ltd, a start-up biotech focused on drug discovery for neglected diseases. In 2011 she was promoted to Principal Scientist and with her increased involvement in managerial activities she decided to pursue a part-time MBA through the Management College of South Africa, which she obtained in 2014. Susan joined H3D as a Research Officer in August 2013 and in 2015 she retired from the lab bench to increase her involvement in project management and operations at H3D.

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Dr Dale Taylor

Chief Investigator | DMPK

Dale is a cell biologist by trade, with a background in biochemistry and microbial genetics.
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He has more than 20 years’ experience in the field of in vitro and in vivo malaria research, with interests in antimalarial drug resistance, pharmacokinetics (PK) and new drug discovery. Dale has been involved with H3D since 2012, when he was seconded to the team at UCT Pharmacology as a post-doctoral research fellow assisting H3D with their in vivo PK studies which had just begun at UCT. He joined H3D full time in 2015, and lead the in vivo PK team and the parasitology team from mid-2016 until the end of 2019. 

Currently Dale oversees the daily running of the malaria biology platform, and co-leads the Malaria Core Team at H3D. He is responsible for managing all facets of the routine screening and the in vivo efficacy teams, and representing malaria biology as a whole at Operations level.

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Mrs Nina Lawrence

Senior Investigator, DMPK

Nina Lawrence obtained her BSc and BSc(Hons) degrees at the University of Cape Town and later her MSc in analytical chemistry and wine biotechnology from Stellenbosch University.

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In 2007 Nina accepted a position as a forensic analyst in Toxicology at the Forensic Chemistry Laboratory in Cape Town. Moving to the UK in 2008, Nina took up a position as laboratory and QA manager at Mizkan, which included managing the day to day activities in the ISO certified food laboratories and micro laboratory. In 2009 she went back to academia, where she worked as the laboratory supervisor of the Chemical Analytical Laboratory in the Institute for Wine Biotechnology at Stellenbosch University, and was involved with the analysis of wine and multiway analysis of data for prediction and correlation studies to aid in wine making and labelling. Nina joined H3D in June 2011 and played a significant role in setting up the ADME platform, and has been leading the platform since 2013. She serves as a member of H3D’s operations committee, and is a core project member within TB and AMR, and backup for malaria, where she actively aids in driving project strategy to achieve key milestones from hit identification to deliver high quality candidate molecules for entry into preclinical development. She advises the project teams on human exposure profile projections and human dose predictions. Nina is currently doing her PhD part time at the University of Cape Town.

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Dr Richard Gessner

Senior Investigator | Malaria Chem

After completing a PhD in 2008 under the supervision of Prof Kelly Chibale, Richard continued to do two years of post-doctorate research in malaria drug discovery on a WHO collaboration project under the supervision of Chibale at the University of Cape Town.

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 In 2011, he was awarded a prestigious industrial postdoc placement at GlaxoSmithKline, Stevenage, UK, where he worked on medicinal chemistry projects in respiratory therapeutics with Dr Simon MacDonald. Richard returned to UCT in 2012, and continued to work for a further two years as a post doctorate fellow in tuberculosis drug discovery as a part of the SATRII (South African Tuberculosis Research Innovative Initiative) team under Chibale. Since taking up the position at the H3D, UCT, in 2014, Richard has been responsible for overseeing TB and malaria drug discovery projects that involve multidisciplinary teams (chemistry/biology/ADME/PK) at H3D/UCT, with external partners and collaborators (including IDRI, Lilly, GSK, DDU, NIAID) within the Tuberculosis Drug Accelerator (TBDA – a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation initiative) and Celgene Global Health (acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2019).  Furthermore, he has played a major role in implementing research project management (Jan 2017 to present) across H3D, after a 10-week management training sabbatical at the end of 2016 at Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research (NIBR) in Cambridge, MA, USA.

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Dr Renier van der Westhuyzen

Chief Investigator | TB Chem

Dr Renier van der Westhuyzen is currently a Chief Investigator at H3D, University of Cape Town.
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With almost a decade’s experience in TB drug discovery he has transitioned into a project leadership role where he is part of a multidisciplinary leadership team involved with hit to lead and lead optimization projects aimed towards discovering new anti-mycobacterial therapies. He has also completed two short sabbaticals at Novartis. At the Novartis institute for tropical disease (NITD) he was employed as a visiting postdoctoral fellow working on improving the developabillity of an approved TB drug. At Novartis, Basel, he was trained in parallel synthesis. Before joining H3D, he was a scientist at iThemba Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd a company focused on drug discovery for neglected tropical diseases. At iThemba he was employed as a medicinal chemist working on various TB drug discovery projects. He completed his undergraduate studies, MSc and PhD degrees at the University of Stellenbosch. His PhD was completed under the supervision of Dr Erick Strauss and entailed the synthesis and evaluation of bacterial Coenzyme A biosynthesis pathway inhibitors.

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Dr Sandeep Ghorpade

Principal Investigator, Medicinal Chemistry

Sandeep Ghorpade joined H3D in September 2014 as a Chief Research Officer. He is leading H3D TB portfolio since 2015 and has recently taken up responsibility of leading a hit-to-lead program for malaria.

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With 11+ years of drug discovery experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Sandeep worked on several lead generation and lead optimization programs at AstraZeneca, India focused on discovering new medicines for TB. Sandeep is well versed with various lead generation approaches, using target-based and whole-cell based screens and has a keen interest in structure-based lead generation. He published six medicinal chemistry papers and a patent based on his work in TB drug discovery research at AstraZeneca. Before joining AstraZeneca, Sandeep worked at Glenmark Research Centre on diabetes projects, from which he added another patent to his credit.

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Vinayak Singh

Dr Vinayak Singh

 Senior Research Officer | TB and AMR Biology

Vinayak (MSc-Biotechnology, PhD-Biochemistry) is an exceptionally skilled experimental biologist with >15 years of extensive drug discovery research experience.
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He has outstanding knowledge of the field of Microbiology, and of the related fields of Biochemistry as well as Microbial Genetics, Genomics and Physiology, especially as they apply to tuberculosis. Vinayak’s exceptional skills as a microbiologist with high-level expertise in antimicrobial drug discovery and development began from his experience at the CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow, India, where he completed a PhD degree in Biochemistry. Next, he joined the University of Cape Town (UCT) where he completed a very successful postdoctoral fellowship (2011-2016) in the eminent lab of Prof. Valerie Mizrahi. He was solely responsible for the experimental work conducted under the auspices of the More Medicines for Tuberculosis (MM4TB) consortium, a drug discovery consortium led by Prof. Stewart Cole, comprising groups from 25 institutions from Europe, India, the USA and South Africa, funded by the European Union under the Seventh Framework Programme. He served as the lead researcher on studies that have been published in top international journals. Importantly, he has identified and validated >15 novel tuberculosis drug targets which have attracted significant interest in the global tuberculosis research community. His work is defined by the characteristics of scientific excellence and rigour as evidenced by his publications and awards.

He joined the H3D in 2017. Being an artist of Molecular networks, Genomics and Metabolomics, his main interest at H3D is to deconvolute mechanism of action of potential compounds - to fulfil a broad and acute interest in the discovery of new innovative drugs.
ORCID ID: 0000-0001-9002-2489

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