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Leading Minds

Dr Leslie Street

Head of Medicinal Chemistry

Dr Leslie Street joined H3D in April of 2012 as Head of Medicinal Chemistry and was the first experienced drug discovery scientist to be recruited.

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This followed 20 years at the Merck Sharp and Dohme Neuroscience Research Centre in the United Kingdom and 5 years at Cortex Pharmaceuticals in California. Leslie relocated to California from the UK in 2006 and has lived in Cape Town since joining H3D, though still has a home in California. Before joining H3D Leslie had only worked on neuroscience projects including discovering drugs for migraine and anxiety disorders. Leslie saw joining H3D as a fantastic opportunity to learn about and help to discover drugs in a different therapeutic area, namely infectious diseases, and in particular for malaria and tuberculosis, two of the biggest killers of people on the African continent and worldwide and is a huge unmet medical need.  In addition, Leslie saw joining H3D as a great opportunity to pass on medicinal chemistry and drug discovery skills, learned in the pharmaceutical industry, to African post doctoral fellows, who are just starting out in their careers in drug discovery. Several of these post docs would later be recruited as valuable members of H3D. The greatest satisfaction at H3D is being involved from the beginning in the building of the first drug discovery group in South Africa, says Leslie. In addition, Prof Kelly Chibale, who recruited Leslie, and all the people in the group are fantastic to work with and the post docs and new recruits are very enthusiastic to learn.

In his spare time, Leslie has joined a Table Mountain trailers club and joins them for runs on Table Mountain every Saturday morning. The mountain is spectacular and the views ore inspiring. Trail running is one of the fastest growing sports in Cape Town. When not trail running, Leslie can be found running along the coastline at Camps Bay on Sundays or in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. The wine estates in and around Cape Town are some of the best in the world and Leslie also enjoys wine tasting with friends. Leslie also likes to travel and has recently visited Tokyo, Beijing and Singapore on H3D business trips. Since H3D has several worldwide partners there is a great opportunity to travel and Leslie has visited more countries than at any other time in his career.

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Mr Virgil Verhoog

Technical Officer | Parasitology

I have been working in the division of Clinical Pharmacology for 4 years.
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I was trained in-house in tissue culture techniques. I am responsible for in vitro antiplasmodial and cytotoxicity testing as well as maintenance of various laboratories. I am a technical officer in the H3D team.

H3D offers a good working environment with potential for growth within the division. With the fusion of academic and industry there is a lot of opportunity to learn and interact with people with various levels of expertise.

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Mrs Sumaya Salie

Technical Officer | Parasitology

I have been working for the University of Cape Town for 20 years.
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I first worked as a departmental assistant in various departments and eventually found my way to the division of Clinical Pharmacology were I still work. I was trained in tissue culture techniques. I am responsible for the daily running of the tissue culture laboratory, in vitroantiplasmodial and cytotoxicity testing as well as maintenance of various laboratories. I am a technical officer in the H3D team.

I am passionate about my work and enjoy tissue culture and all the challenges that goes along with it. We conduct the primary screen for the malaria project. This entails a lot of work and continuously pushes our team to strive for efficiency and excellence in producing data. It is very rewarding to see our data being utilized globally.

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Dr Greg Basarab 

Head of DMPK

I’m excited about the current environment at the H3D with growth happening in all of our core disciplines including Medicinal Chemistry, Biology and DMPK.

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We’re working hard to integrate these disciplines toward accelerating the drug discovery process and providing critical important medicines for diseases that, in my mind, have not received the necessary level of such drug-hunting attention.  The work here at the H3D is quite challenging and the staff very engaged, which are the ingredients for developing something new and different!

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Dr Susan Winks

Operations and Research Project Manager

Dr Susan Winks completed her PhD in synthetic organic chemistry at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2009.
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Keen to apply her new-found expertise she joined iThemba Pharmaceuticals, a start-up biotechnology company doing drug discovery for neglected diseases. Susan joined iThemba as a Research Scientist doing medicinal chemistry for malaria and tuberculosis drug discovery projects. During this first year of work experience Susan realised that the correct business environment is essential in order to be effective as a scientist. In 2011 Susan enrolled for a part-time Masters in Business Administration (MBA) through the Management College of Southern Africa. Within 6 months of starting to apply business principals to her daily work Susan was promoted to Principal Scientist and started to manage her own team of chemists. In 2013 Susan completed her Masters dissertation entitled “An Evaluation of Sustainable Business Models in the Biotechnology Industry -a Case Study of iThemba Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd”. This topic was particularly relevant at the time as the sustainability of iThemba Pharmaceuticals was a serious concern. Mid 2013 Susan left iThemba to join the H3D drug discovery and development centre as a Research Office. Initially she joined the team of medicinal chemists working on tuberculosis projects, however, as her interest and involvement in the business environment grew she spent less time in the laboratory and from 2014 her role at H3D shifted focus towards operations. In February 2016 she was officially appointed to the role of Operations and Research Project Manager at H3D.

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