David Thurston

David Thurston


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Personal profile

Biographical details

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 and a PhD in synthetic medicinal chemistry, and has worked at six schools of pharmacy, two 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).  In 2000 he co-founded the oncology biotech company Spirogen Ltd which was acquired by AstraZeneca in 2013.  His research team discovered the first-in-class sequence-selective DNA-interactive agent SJG-136, which completed Phase I clinical trials in the US and UK in 2011, and is now in Phase II in leukaemia in the US through the NCI.  Through a collaboration of Spirogen with Seattle Genetics, an Antibody-Drug Conjugate (ADC) SGN-CD33A is now in Phase I clinical trials in the USA in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) patients, with a second ADC at the PCT stage.  Further ADC products are in late pre-clinical development with Genentech.  Since joining King’s in January 2012, Professor Thurston has co-founded a second biotech company (Transcriptogen Ltd) which focusses on the discovery and development of novel small-molecule transcription factor inhibitors.  The company has one lead agent (TSG-1301), a potential NFκB inhibitor, in pre-clinical development for pancreatic and breast cancer.

To date, Professor Thurston has supervised 46 PhD students and numerous postdoctoral research fellows, and is author of over 150 publications in medicinal chemistry/chemistry journals and books.  His textbook, “Chemistry and Pharmacology of Anticancer Drugs” is recognized as a standard text in the area for undergraduates, postgraduates and cancer researchers in both industry and academia, and the Second Edition will be published in 2016.  His full output of publications and abstracts can be found at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Thurston

Professor Thurston has been a member of several national committees including the Project Grants Committees of Cancer Research UK (CR-UK) and the Association of International Cancer Research (AICR), and the CR-UK New Agents Committee which oversees the acceptance of novel antitumour agents for development and clinical trial.  He has also been a member of two national University Research Assessment Exercise (“REF”) Panels for Pharmacy (1992 and 1996), and the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) which advises the Government on the granting of licenses for new drugs for prescription use and for sale to the public.  He has also chaired the Chemistry, Pharmacy & Standards (CPS) Sub-Committee of the CSM.  He 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, Professor Thurston completed his pre-registration pharmacy practice training at the Charing Cross Teaching Hospital (London).  He still regularly practices community pharmacy, and is accredited to provide a number of Advanced Services such as Medicine Use Reviews (MURs), Influenza/Meningitis Vaccination, Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC), Chlamydia Screening, Repeat Dispensing and the New Medicines Service (NMS).  He completed a MSc in Community Pharmacy Practice at the University of Portsmouth in the area of Pharmacogenomics and Personalised Medicine in 2010.

Professor Thurston 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.

Research interests

Professor David Thurston’s research interests include the discovery of sequence-selective DNA-interactive agents as anticancer drugs, antibacterial agents, and as transcription factor inhibitors.

He is also interested in the discovery of novel protein-protein interaction inhibitors as anticancer agents, the development of novel bio-analytical methodologies, and the application of pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine approaches to anticancer drug discovery and the practice of pharmacy.

His research has been funded from a variety of sources including the Research Councils, Cancer Research UK, the British Council, the Commonwealth Fund, various pharmaceutical companies, charities and venture capital investors.  In 1996 his funding from Cancer Research UK was awarded Programme Grant status.


Research interests (short)

1.  Sequence-selective DNA-interactive agents as anticancer drugs, antibacterial agents, and as transcription factor inhibitors.

2.  Novel protein-protein interaction inhibitors as anticancer agents.

3.  Development of novel bio-analytical methodologies.

4.  Application of pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine approaches to anticancer drug discovery and the practice of pharmacy.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

Master of Science, Pharmacogenomics & Personalized Medicine in Community Practice, University of Portsmouth

Award Date: 1 Jan 2010

Bachelor of Pharmacy, University of Portsmouth

Award Date: 1 Jan 1986

Doctor of Philosophy, Synthetic Medicinal Chemistry/Glaxo CASE Award, University of Portsmouth

Award Date: 1 Jan 1980


  • Q Science (General)
  • Drug Discovery, DNA-Interactive Agents
  • RS Pharmacy and materia medica
  • Practise of Pharmacy, Advanced Services, Personalized Medicine


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