Cape Town – A University of Cape Town (UCT) professor has been recognised as one of the world’s top 60 inspirational leaders in the pharmaceutical industry.
Professor Kelly Chibale, the founder and director of H3D, Africa’s first integrated drug discovery and development centre, is based at the UCT campus. He also teaches organic chemistry at the university.
In the list of 60, Chibale has placed in the top 20 of inspirational medicine makers in the field of small molecules.
The annual US-based Medicine Makers Power List celebrates professionals from around the world who have inspired the pharmaceutical industry.
Editor of The Medicine Maker, Stephanie Sutton, told UCT that although 2020 has been a year of multiple national disasters and now a pandemic, it is pivotal at this stage to appreciate people working hard to make the world a better place.
“At times like this, we believe it is even more important to recognise the many people working hard to improve our world. The professionals highlighted in the 2020 Power List are driving the industry forward and saving lives by developing new medicines,” Sutton said.
Chibale said he was glad the work in Africa was being recognised globally.
“I am greatly encouraged that what we have been doing in Africa in the field of drug discovery is being acknowledged and recognised on the global stage,” Chibale said.
Chibale has also been recognised as a top influencer in his field in the past two years. In 2019, he made the New African magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential Africans, and in 2018 he was listed among Fortune magazine’s 50 World’s Greatest Leaders.
In addition to being the founder and director of the Drug Discovery and Development Research Unit (H3D) at UCT, Chibale also holds the Neville Isdell chairmanship in African-centric Drug Discovery at H3D.
Chibale said the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the importance of investment in drug discovery and development, not only in Africa but globally.
“It is time to train a generation of African scientists to conduct drug discovery and build the critical infrastructure and expertise that can be sustained into the future so that Africa can respond adequately to future pandemics like Covid-19.
“We need to contribute therapies for the benefit of all human beings. We need to do the difficult things now for the sake of a better tomorrow and the next generation,” said Chibale.
Chibale believes deploying their well-established world-class drug discovery infrastructure and expertise in finding potential therapies against Covid-19 could be significant. However, funding would be needed for them to play their part in the fight against the killer virus.
“In addition to new funding, what would also be needed is funder- or government-driven co-ordination of activities to incentivise H3D to work with virologists who can develop Covid-19 screening assays. H3D has no in-house expertise in virology but has in-house drug discovery expertise in medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, which are key and are transferable,” Chibale said.
He believes funding can also lead to a breakthrough in the discovery of treatments for many known diseases in Africa.
“By doing drug discovery in Africa, we will be seeding an innovative pharmaceutical industry that will not only seek to address the health challenges of the continent through the discovery of innovative medicines, but also create jobs both in research and development as well as in manufacturing and other areas,” Chibale said
He said chemicals used for other projects could be repurposed in a strategy known as drug repurposing and repositioning for Covid-19.
“Drug repurposing is an approach of taking a drug developed for one disease and using it in another disease.”
An example is the widely reported use of the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in a bid to treat Covid-19.
“Drug repositioning, on the other hand, is an approach of taking a drug developed for one disease and using it as a template or basis for chemical modifications to generate derivatives that are optimised for use in another disease.
“The world is a global village when it comes to global health diseases like Covid-19 and tuberculosis. We need to co-operate to solve these global health pandemics,” Chibale said.
African News Agency (ANA)
By Robin-Lee Francke