Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico


David Thurston is Professor of Drug Discovery in the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science at King’s College London.  He has a first degree in pharmacy, an MSc in Precision Medicine and a PhD in synthetic medicinal chemistry.  He 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 in 2020. 

In 2000, David co-founded the oncology biotech company Spirogen Ltd to commercialize the PBD dimer technology, acting as its CSO until 2011.  The company 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 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.

During his academic career, David has supervised over 50 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 2020.  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 has been a member of several national committees including the Grants Committees of Cancer Research UK (CR-UK) and the Association of International Cancer Research (AICR; now WCR), and the CR-UK New Agents Committee.  He has also been a member of two Research Assessment Exercise (REF) Panels for Pharmacy (1992 and 1996), and the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) and Chemistry, Pharmacy & Standards (CPS) Sub-Committee which advise the Government on the granting of licenses for new drugs for prescription use and for sale to the public.  David was one of the founding Directors of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences (APS), and is a past member of the APS Executive Committee.  He was also Conference Science Chairman for the 2006 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 in the UK, and still practices to maintain his clinical skills.  He is accredited to offer patients a range of Advanced NHS Services.

David was awarded the Academic Pharmacist of the Year prize from the PHARMAs in 2007, and was awarded Fellowships of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2009.