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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. His first foray into the malaria field was an Honours degree in Pharmacology looking at reversing antimalarial drug resistance in vitro.
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He followed this with a PhD, extending his work to the in vivo environment. The research introduced drug/reverser combinations developed in the test tube to the malaria-infected mouse model, and coupled the efficacy findings to drug kinetics using LCMS techniques.

Dale won an NRF Scarce Skills Fellowship to evaluate the potential of new classes of antimalarials in conjunction with scientists in Delhi. Parallel to this, he was seconded to the fledgling H3D DMPK team in 2012 in a part-time capacity to develop LCMS methods for the Medicines for Malaria Venture project to conduct pharmacokinetic evaluations of promising new H3D-produced compounds in rats.

As H3D expanded, his role extended to assisting with in vitro efficacy and selectivity evaluations, correlating kinetic data to antimalarial efficacy studies conducted off-site in infected mice, and carrying out kinetic and dose escalation studies in rodents for novel scaffolds intended to treat tuberculosis.

Dale joined the DMPK team at H3D on a full-time basis in mid-2015.

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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

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and later her MSc in analytical chemistry and wine biotechnology from Stellenbosch University. 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, where she was involved with wine analysis and multiway analysis of data for prediction and correlation studies to aid in wine making and labelling. Nina has been employed by H3D since 2011 and currently manages the in vitro ADME group. She is a core project member of the H3D projects within TB and malaria and has been part of an external collaboration for the development of a new human PK and dose prediction tool. Nina recently started doing her PhD part time within TB at the University of Cape Town.

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Dr Richard Gessner

Senior Investigator | Malaria Chem

Richard completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Cape Town.

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After completing a PhD in 2008 under the supervision of Prof Kelly Chibale, Richard continued to work as a postdoctorate research fellow in Kelly Chibale’s group at UCT on a World Health Organization (WHO) funded malaria project. In 2011, he was accepted to attend a prestigious drug discovery work experience programme between the National Research Foundation (NRF), on behalf of the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST), and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) working in the fibrosis DPU at GSK, Stevenage, UK with Dr Simon MacDonald. Richard returned to UCT in 2012, and continued to work for a further two years as a postdoctorate fellow in tuberculosis drug discovery as a part of the SATRII (South African Tuberculosis Research Innovative Initiative) team under Kelly Chibale. Since taking up the position at the H3-D Drug Discovery and Development Centre, UCT, he is responsible for overseeing TB drug discovery projects that involve multidisciplinary teams (biology/ADME/PK) at H3-D, UCT, with external partners and collaborators (including IDRI, Lilly, GSK, DDU and NIAID) within the Tuberculosis Drug Accelerator (TBDA – a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation initiative).

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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,
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University of Cape Town where he is taking a leading role in hit to lead and lead optimization projects aimed towards discovering new anti-mycobacterial therapies. 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 has also completed two short sabbaticals at Novartis. At the Novartis institute for tropical disease (NITD) in Singapore 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 iThemba 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, Chemistry

Sandeep Ghorpade joined H3D in September 2014 as a Chief Research Officer,

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

Sandeep graduated in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Mumbai and he did his Ph.D. in chemistry at the National Chemical Laboratory, India, where he worked on enantioselective chemoenzymatic synthesis of chiral molecules. He worked as a post-doctoral fellow at University of North Dakota, USA in asymmetric catalysis. Altogether, he has published eight international papers and holds three US patents and several Indian patents from his academic career.

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Vinayak Singh

Dr Vinayak Singh

 Research Officer | TB Biology

Vinayak (MSc-Biotechnology, PhD-Biochemistry) is an exceptionally skilled experimental biologist with more than 12 years of extensive 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 worked as a postdoctoral fellow (2011-2016) in the eminent lab of Prof. Valerie Mizrahi in the fields of Microbiology, Biochemistry, Microbial Genetics and Metabolomics. At UCT 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.

Vinayak has been remarkably productive in his PhD and postdoc, serving as the lead researcher on studies that have been published in top international journals and presented at major international conferences. 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.

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.

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