Dr. Timothy Wells has been the Chief Scientific Officer of the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) since 2007. MMV is a product development partnership, which together with its partners has launched five new products over the last five years. There is also a strong pipeline of new molecules designed to treat malaria, protect vulnerable populations, and also to drive the eventual elimination of this deadly disease. Recent years have seen a major transformation in drug discovery and development for malaria. Changes in high throughput screening methodology have allowed the testing of 6 million compounds, from 20 company and academic sources to be tested directly against the parasite. The resulting 25,000 hits have meant that compounds have been moved rapidly into preclinical and clinical testing. In addition, new (previously overlooked) targets have been found, and the majority of the data have been made publicly available. In 2011 MMV started its ‘Malaria Box’ project, and has distributed collections of 400 key hits to over 150 groups throughout the world, over half of whom don’t work on malaria. This has led to many interesting new series being identified for other disease areas. A second version of this project ‘Pathogen Box’ is being assembled, supported by both the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization, and is due for release in 2015.
The development of new molecules has been accelerated by the creative use of experimental human infections, and this has reduced development times by up to 2 years in the early phase II stages. New human challenge models are being developed, in collaboration with academic groups in Europe and the US, as well as in Africa.
Prior to joining MMV, Dr. Wells was head of Research for Serono, Europe’s leading biotechnology company, leading up to the sale to Merck KGaA in 2007. Dr. Wells earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Chemistry from Imperial College, London for Protein Engineering studies on enzyme catalysis, with Sir Alan Fersht. He was awarded a Doctor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Cambridge for his later work on cytokines, mainly carried out during his period at Glaxo’s Institute for Molecular Biology in Geneva. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the UK Academy of Medical Sciences.