Sussex Drug Discovery Centre (SDDC)

Principal Investigators


Simon Ward has an MA in Natural Sciences and PhD in synthetic organic chemistry from Cambridge University. He has a wide ranging experience of drug discovery in both large and small companies (GlaxoSmithKline, BioCrea, Knoll Pharmaceuticals, Vernalis, Chiroscience) and specialist experience of discovering and developing drugs for central nervous system indications. He has led multidisciplinary project teams & medicinal chemistry groups from target identification, through to early clinical studies, delivering multiple clinical development candidates across indications. Simon is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and among his external roles is a committee member for the Society for Medicines Research and the RSC Bio-organic and Medicinal Chemistry Sector and is also a member of the funding review panels for the MRC Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme and Cancer Research UK Small Molecule Expert Review Panel. In addition to his teaching role at Sussex, Simon plays a leading role in medicinal chemistry training in the UK and overseas, in particular through leading the RSC medicinal chemistry residential summer school and editing ‘The Handbook of Medicinal Chemistry: Principles and Practice’, both with Dr Andy Davis, AstraZeneca. Simon is currently Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Director of the Sussex Drug Discovery Centre which he founded within the University of Sussex in 2010.


John graduated from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with a degree in Physiology followed by a PhD in the department of pathology at the Newcastle General Hospital. He has a particular interest in neuroscience drug discovery and is currently Professor of Molecular Pharmacology having joined the University of Sussex after a 20-year career in the pharmaceutical industry, initially with Merck Sharp & Dohme and then rising to the rank of Head of Neuroscience Biology with Janssen (the Pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson) in Belgium. His interest in pharmacology originated from a postdoctoral position at the U.S. National Institutes of Health during which he initiated a drug discovery project that ultimately resulted in the anticholinesterase drug phenserine which was evaluated in Phase 3 studies in Alzheimer’s disease. Subsequent to this, he has worked on drug targets for bipolar disorder (inositol monophosphatase), anxiety and cognitive impairment (GABAA receptor modulators), Alzheimer’s disease (γ-secretase), Parkinson’s disease (adenosine A2A antagonist), schizophrenia (mGlu2 receptor modulator) and has led multidisciplinary projects from the early target identification through to clinical development stages. He has been a major contributor to over a dozen compounds that have moved from preclinical drug discovery into development. John is also a member of the MRC Neuroscience and Mental Health Board..


Martin has devoted his research career to realising the therapeutic potential of ion channels in both industrial and academic settings. Subsequent to completing a BSc degree in Pharmacology at the University of Leeds, Martin received his PhD from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Aston in Birmingham by studying ion channels in bone and muscle cells. His ion channel research continued throughout his post-doctoral studies at Imperial College and in 1998 Martin was appointed as lecturer in Vascular Physiology at Imperial College School of Medicine. Martin joined Novartis in 2001 in the Respiratory Diseases Area based in Horsham UK, and established an industry leading ion channel discovery group focused upon programs for the treatment of respiratory, CNS, inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases. Martin and his associated teams made pivotal contributions to the identification of numerous clinical candidates, several of which are still progressing through clinical development. In 2014 Martin joined the University of Sussex, establishing a group developing respiratory therapeutics programs and collaborating with colleagues in CNS ion channel drug discovery. Martin is also a co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Enterprise Therapeutics, a Sussex-based respiratory biotech company.