Made in Africa

Last week I was pleased to attend the annual MMV ESAC (Expert Scientific Advisory Committee) meeting in a beautiful hotel in Cape Town. In the meeting representatives from all drug discovery projects receiving MMV support presented their progress and future plans. The committee made up of experts from both industry and academia then provided feedback and advise to help MMV identify the best projects worthy of inclusion in their portfolio. I found the meeting extremely educational and interesting. It was also fun to have the opportunity to mix with the MMV staff, the experts and the presenters from both industry and academia at the various meals and excursions planned for our enjoyment. I was particularly pleased to meet colleagues from Tres Cantos and a lady named Phieng Siliphaivanh (shown with me below) who, like me has been placed with MMV on a 3 month fellowship program similar to that of PULSE from Merck, Boston.

Phieng and I

Each year each ESAC member is asked to vote for their favorite project. In 2012 the H3-D project who I am working with in UCT was named as the winner due to the discovery of a diarylaminopyridine compound named MMV390048. MMV390048 has the potential to become part of a single dose cure for all strains of malaria. It is also the first compound researched on African soil to enter preclinical development and is expected to be ready for human testing in March 2014. For more information on H3-D, its director, Kelly Chibale and the development of MMV390048 click on the link below to view an article published this month in Nature Medicine entitled ‘Made in Africa’, (Nature Medicine, 19, 803-806 (2013).

Click to access nm0713-803.pdf

Lastly, a little update on my progress. I have completed a resynthesize of a key intermediate in the synthesis of MMV390048 for radiolabelled studies. Going forward I will join the group in synthesizing new compounds in the search for a back up to MMV390048. On top of helping out with synthetic chemistry I am looking for opportunities to pass on learnings from my time in industry to the group. Two ideas I am currently working to roll out are an improved compound management system and the principle of calculating physical chemical properties of potential chemical targets ahead of synthesis.


  1. Wow, this is simply stunning! It’s exciting to see that this drug candidate came from Africa, and that you’re doing hands-on chemistry work there.

  2. Thanks Sarah for the update! I really enjoyed the background story on the cretation of the H3-D lab and the initial discovery of this lead molecule to treat malaria: it’s all about commited people, scientific open innovation and sharing of resources! It looks to me that you will learn a lot out there and I am glad to see that you will be able to pass on your knowledge as well! Keep up with the good work and all the best for the rest!

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