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25 August 2020

Professor David Thurston announces retirement

Professor David Thurston, who is currently Professor of Drug Discovery in the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, will be retiring at the end of this month.

Professor David Thurston

Professor David Thurston has a first degree in pharmacy, an MSc in Precision Medicine and a PhD in synthetic medicinal chemistry, and has worked at two schools of pharmacy in the USA (University of Texas at Austin and Kentucky Colleges of Pharmacy) and four in the UK (the Portsmouth, Nottingham and London Schools of Pharmacy, and now King’s).

David’s academic research team discovered the first C8-linked sequence-selective DNA-interactive PBD dimer which reached Phase II clinical trials in the US and UK in the early 2010s for the treatment of haematological cancers. PBD dimers are now used as the payload component for Antibody-Drug Conjugates (ADCs) in development by a number of companies world-wide as cancer therapies. Loncastuximab tesirine (ADCT-402), under development by ADCT Ltd, is presently completing Phase III clinical trials and is expected to reach the IND stage with the FDA later this year.

In 2000, David co-founded the oncology biotech company Spirogen Ltd to commercialize the PBD dimer technology, acting as its CSO until 2012, after which it was acquired by AstraZeneca/Medimmune in 2013. After moving to King’s College London in 2012, David worked on next-generation sequence-selective DNA-interactive ADC payloads in his academic laboratory, which led to foundation of the King's spin-out company Femtogenix Ltd in 2015 for which he still acts as CSO. In 2013, David co-founded another King’s spin-out company, Transcriptogen Ltd, which specializes in novel transcription factor inhibitors for the treatment of a wide range of human cancers.

David is a strong advocate of the pharmacy profession and is always generous in offering advice to colleagues based on his experience as an educator, drug discoverer and practising pharmacist.

Professor Ben Forbes, Joint Head of School, School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences

During his academic career, David has supervised over 60 PhD students and numerous postdoctoral research fellows, has been the PI of several major Programme Grants from Cancer Research UK, and is author of ~200 publications in medicinal chemistry/chemistry journals and books. His textbook, Chemistry and Pharmacology of Anticancer Drugs, is used by undergraduates, postgraduates and cancer researchers in both industry and academia, and the Second Edition will be published in early 2021. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Drug Discovery book series of the Royal Society of Chemistry which has now published over 70 volumes.

David was one of the founding Directors of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences (APS), and was Conference Science Chairman for a past British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC). In between his undergraduate pharmacy degree and PhD studies, David completed his pre-registration pharmacy training at the Charing Cross Teaching Hospital (London). He is a registered pharmacist, still practices regularly in Community Pharmacy to maintain his clinical skills, and is accredited to offer a range of Advanced NHS Services. David is a Fellow of both the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

In this story

David  Thurston

Emeritus Professor of Drug Discovery

Ben  Forbes

Professor of Pharmaceutics