Dr Richard K Gessner

Richard Gessner is a Senior Investigator at the H3D Drug Discovery and Development Centre at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. Since taking up the position at H3D in 2014, Richard has been responsible for overseeing tuberculosis (TB) and malaria drug discovery projects that involve multidisciplinary teams (chemistry/biology/ADME/PK) at H3D, with external partners and collaborators (including IDRI, Lilly, GSK, DDU, TAMU, WCMC, Evotec and NIAID) within the TB Drug Accelerator (TBDA – a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation initiative) and Celgene Global Health (acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2019). In 2021, Richard took on the additional responsibility of developing H3D’s anti-viral portfolio which initiated from a BRICS collaboration SARS-CoV-2 AI drug discovery programme. Furthermore, he has also played a major role in implementing research project management across H3D after a sabbatical at the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research (NIBR) in Cambridge, MA, USA, in 2016.

Drug discovery at the tip of Africa – (and the Importance of Partnerships)

Africa has great potential for drug discovery and is often described as the “next frontier” in the global economy. The continent is rich in natural resources, indigenous knowledge and human capacity while bearing more than 20% of the global disease burden. Multiple issues, including the lack of resources, political instability and a continued “brain-drain” of experienced scientists to “greener pastures” makes it difficult to conduct world class science.

In this talk, I will present H3D, Africa’s first integrated drug discovery and development centre. Following inception at the University of Cape Town in April 2010, I will highlight key local and international projects and partnerships [which led to the identification of compound MMV048, the first clinical anti-plasmodial candidate of a new class of compounds which target the parasite PI4 kinase system, and the first clinical candidate to come out of Africa], that has brought the centre into the position to pioneer world-class drug discovery in Africa.