The Institute is made up of dedicated drug discovery teams led by a Chief Scientific Officer and three Lead Academic Scientists.
Chief Scientific Officer
Our Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) leads the UCL Drug Discovery Institute and drives scientific progress. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss potential collaborations.
Paul obtained a first class honours degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology from the University of Leeds, followed by a PhD in Biochemistry at the University of London. Paul subsequently joined the Neuroscience Research Centre, Merck Research Laboratories, where he moved from lab scientist to Head of Molecular and Cellular Neurosciences.
Paul joined Pfizer in 2006, and went on to help establish the new Pfizer Regenerative Medicine research unit in Cambridge UK, leading the small molecule and cell therapy programs. In 2011 the regenerative medicine activities were incorporated into a new Pfizer research unit, “Neusentis”, where he was Head of Molecular and Cellular Biology. In October 2015, Paul moved to UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences to become the Chief Scientific Officer for the Alzheimer’s Research UK UCL Drug Discovery Institute.
Paul has co-authored over 190 scientific publications, and is inventor on a number of patents. He has served on the Medical Research Council Neuroscience and Mental Health Board, and is currently a member of the MRC Regenerative Medicine Research Committee and UK Regenerative Medicine Platform Board. He served on the Biological Sciences committee for assessment of UK University and Research Institutions (RAE 2008) and the Neuroscience and Psychology committee for assessment of UK University and Research Institutions (REF 2014: Research Excellence Framework). In 2009 he was appointed Honorary Professor in the Division of Biosciences, University College London.
Head of Chemistry
Paul received his PhD in organic chemistry at the University of Nottingham, before pursuing postdoctoral research at Harvard University and Stanford University. Paul started his career in drug discovery in 1994 as a medicinal chemist with Pfizer at Sandwich (UK), before moving into the position of Research Project Leader, with responsibility for delivering projects from the exploratory portfolio through to clinical first in human studies. In 2009, Paul joined Pfizer’s Regenerative Medicine and Epigenetic unit where he led the exploratory chemistry team in support of the unit’s small molecule and stem cell therapies for the treatment of neuroregeneration with an emphasis on a chemogenomic approach towards phenotypical screening to identify new drug targets for dementia. In addition, he led Pfizer’s open access collaboration with the Structural Genomics Consortium to identify new chemical probes for epigenetic research.
In 2012 he was appointed as Professor and Chair of Medicinal Chemistry at the UCL School of Pharmacy where his research activities were focussed on the identification of new small molecule chemical probes for bromodomain and histone methyl transferase proteins. In January 2016, Paul moved to the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences to become the Head of Chemistry for the Alzheimer’s Research UK UCL Drug Discovery Institute.
Paul has co-authored over 100 scientific publications including 21 patents and serves on the scientific advisory boards for ‘not-for-profit’ organisations such as Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and Salvensis (rare and neglected diseases).
Head of Screening and Pharmacology
Magda obtained her bachelors degree in Pharmacology & Physiology from The University of Sheffield, and her Ph.D. from Imperial College London. She has over 15 years drug discovery experience gained within the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, where she held positions of increasing responsibility, directing research activities in the areas of GPCR-based targets; stem cell based therapies and implementation of induced pluripotent stem cells in phenotypic screens. Magda has in depth experience in designing and running biochemical as well as cell-based assays for high throughput and high-content screens in various disease areas including gastrointestinal, sexual health, women’s health; regenerative medicine; and pain. Magda joined the UCL DDI in March 2016 as head of pharmacology and screening.
Head of Neurodegeneration Biology
Jamie Bilsland graduated in Neuroscience from the University of Glasgow, and received his PhD in neuropharmacology from the School of Pharmacy, UCL. He worked at the MSD Neuroscience Research Centre for 12 years as a research scientist, focusing on neurotrophic factors, neuroregeneration and neural stem cells. In 2006 he moved to Pfizer, and remained there for 10 years based in Sandwich and Cambridge as a team and project leader. While at Pfizer he led a number of drug discovery projects in early exploratory, taking two of them through to candidate nomination and early development. He also led an induced pluripotent stem cell based disease modelling initiative focused on pain and sensory disorders at the Pfizer Neusentis site, and was a steering committee member and work package lead on the StemBANCC Innovative Medicines Initiative project. He joined the UCL DDI in 2016 as Head of Neurodegeneration Biology.
Lead Academic Scientists
Our Lead Academic Scientists act as ambassadors for the UCL Drug Discovery Institute, facilitating interactions with scientists and access to resources within UCL and beyond.
Prof Schiavo gained his degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technology and a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Padua, Italy, and received postdoctoral training at the University of Padua and at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, USA. He was then recruited as junior group leader at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, where he has been Head of the Molecular NeuroPathobiology Laboratory until 2013. In 2014, he moved to University College London as Professor of Cellular Neurobiology at the Institute of Neurology. During his career, Prof Schiavo performed functional analyses on the mechanism of action of several bacterial toxins, such as diphtheria and pertussis toxins, and tetanus and botulinum neurotoxins. These studies provided a step-change in the molecular understanding of the machinery controlling neurotransmitter release and contributed to the first recombinant diphtheria vaccine now used worldwide in humans. The current goal of Professor Schiavo’s research is to understand the mechanisms underlying neuronal membrane trafficking, in particular axonal transport, and how neurons control the uptake and sorting of ligands in health and disease.
Prof Hardy is a geneticist and molecular biologist whose research interests focus on neurological disease. He received his B.Sc. (Hons) degree from the University of Leeds and his Ph.D. from Imperial College London, where he studied dopamine and amino acid neuropharmacology. Prof Hardy received his postdoctoral training at the MRC Neuropathogenesis Unit in Newcastle upon Tyne, and then further postdoctoral work at the Swedish Brain Bank in Umeå, Sweden where he started to work on Alzheimer’s disease. He became Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at St. Mary’s Hospital, Imperial College, in 1985 and initiated genetic studies of Alzheimer’s disease whilst there. He was appointed Associate Professor in 1989 and then took the Pfeiffer Endowed Chair of Alzheimer’s Research at the University of South Florida, in Tampa in 1992.
In 1996 he moved to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, as Consultant and Professor of Neuroscience. He became Chair of Neuroscience in 2000 and moved to NIA as Chief of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics in 2001. He won the MetLife, the Allied Signal and the Potamkin Prize for his work in describing the first genetic mutations, in the amyloid gene in Alzheimer’s disease, in 1991. He was Head of the Neurogenetics Section, National Institute of Ageing, Bethesda, USA and in 2007 took up the Chair of Molecular Biology of Neurological Disease at the UCL Institute of Neurology. With over 23,000 citations, Prof Hardy is the most cited Alzheimer’s disease researcher in the UK (5th internationally). In recognition of his exceptional contributions to science, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2009. John won the Breakthrough Prize 2015 for his tremendous work on Alzheimer’s disease.
Bart de Strooper
Prof de Strooper is a molecular biologist and professor at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Leuven, Belgium). He is head of the VIB Department of Molecular and Developmental Genetics, KU Leuven. De Strooper obtained an MD at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in 1985 and a PhD in 1992. He did a Postdoc at the EMBL in Heidelberg Germany in 1994. He has been VIB Group leader since 1999, and Scientific Director at the Department of Molecular and Developmental Genetics since 2007. He has been a visiting professor at UCL since 2013. His research interest is in the fundamental molecular processes that underlay neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. His work has also contributed to insights into general physiological mechanisms, in particular, the understanding of regulated intramembrane proteolysis as an important signaling mechanism in health and disease.