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Our team

The Institute is made up of dedicated drug discovery teams led by a Chief Scientific Officer and a Lead Academic Scientist.

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Dr John Skidmore

Chief Scientific Officer (CSO)

John Skidmore is a chemist by training, receiving a BA and DPhil from the University of Oxford. Following a post doc at the University of Liverpool with Prof Stan Roberts, John joined GSK where he worked as a medicinal chemist and project leader in the pain and neurodegeneration therapeutic areas. In 2010 John moved to the University of Cambridge, where, funded through the Wellcome Trust’s Seeding Drug Discovery scheme, he led a number of protein-protein interaction inhibitor projects. In 2015 John moved within the University, to his present position as the CSO of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Cambridge Drug Discovery Institute. To discuss possible targets, please get in touch.

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Dr Steve Andrews

Head of Chemistry

Steve Andrews obtained his Ph.D. in organic chemistry with Prof Steve Ley CBE FRS at the University of Cambridge. Following postdoctoral studies at ETH-Zürich with Prof Erick Carreira, Steve joined Heptares Therapeutics in 2008 where he played a key role in establishing the chemistry laboratories and leading structure-based drug design programs with “intractable” GPCRs across multiple disease areas. He is an inventor of Heptares’ Imaradenant, which was licensed to AstraZeneca and reached phase II clinical trials. Steve joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute as a member of the Senior Leadership Team and Head of Chemistry in 2016.

 

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Dr Wei-Li Kuan

Head of Biology

Wei-Li Kuan is a translational neurobiologist with a strong background in disease modelling using experimental and clinical data in neurodegenerative conditions including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. William previously held an MRC/UKRI Innovation fellowship in Cambridge University, before working in the biotech industry to facilitate the development of novel therapeutics for Alzheimer's disease using iPSC platforms. He also fostered productive, interdisciplinary collaborations with organic and radiochemists, as well as leading PhD scientists to work with human transcriptomic data for target identification and validation. William joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute as a member of the Senior Leadership Team and Head of Biology in 2023.

Kate Granger Compassion in Care Awards 2018.
NHS70 Awards - 2000-2009 Award.
Professor Roger Barker.

Prof Roger Barker

Lead Academic Scientist

Roger Barker is the Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge and Consultant Neurologist at the Addenbrooke’s Hospital Cambridge. He is a PI in the MRC-Wellcome Stem Cell Institute in Cambridge and Director of the MRC funded UKRMP Stem and Engineered cell hub.

He trained at Oxford University and St Thomas Hospital Medical School before qualifying in 1986. He completed his medical training before undertaking a PhD in Cambridge on neural grafting for Parkinson’s  Disease. He then completed his neurology training in Cambridge, London and Norwich before setting up his own research group in 1997.

His research seeks to better define the clinical heterogeneity of two common neurodegenerative disorders of the CNS- namely Parkinson’s (PD) and Huntington’s disease (HD). This has helped him define the best way by which to take new therapies into the clinic including novel experimental therapeutics such as cell and gene therapies as well as drug repurposing trials.

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Dr Andrew Lim

Associate Biologist

Andrew Lim obtained his PhD from the University of Dundee. He then proceeded to work as Postdoctoral Researcher in Drug Discovery in a project funded by the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation, in which he represented the academic partner Oxford Clinical Research Unit based in Vietnam to work in an academic-industrial collaborative project on the development of an intracellular bacterial assay in GSK Tres Cantos research site in Spain. He joined ADDI on Feb 2020 as the Assay Development and Screening Scientist.

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Cara Pedley

Assistant Biologist

Cara obtained a BSc (Hons) degree in Cell Biology from the University of Stirling, during which she gained an interest in neuroscience by studying the organisation of neuronal circuits in the spinal dorsal horn at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Neuroscience. Her MSc in Neuroscience project at King’s College London focused on the potential neuroprotective roles of astrocytes in Alzheimer’s disease. Cara joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute as a Research Assistant in April 2022.

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Dr Cathryn Ugalde

Associate Biologist

Cathryn joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute (ADDI) as a Research Associate after completing her Ph.D. (University of Melbourne) and postdoctoral training (La Trobe University) in the lab of Professor Andrew Hill, where she studied the pathogenic mechanisms of prions and other aggregating proteins. She broadly has worked across many aspects of neurodegeneration including protein misfolding, neurotoxicity, protein-lipid interactions and glial dysfunction in disease. Cathryn’s extensive experience in characterising protein aggregation using biophysical assays, cellular/ex vivo and in vivo models of neurodegeneration and human tissue is utilized in her role with the ADDI in projects related to target validation and assay development. ​

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Dr Chris Brown

Senior Chemist

Chris completed his PhD in Chemistry from the University of Bristol under the supervision of Varinder Aggarwal in the field of polyketide synthesis. He then built up seven years’ industrial experience in multiple therapeutic areas with Boehringer Ingelheim and Charles River Laboratories, where he transitioned to a team lead role. In 2022 Chris joined the ALBORADA DDI as Senior Chemist and Project Leader, and has interests in high-throughput experimentation and process optimisation.

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Clement Rey

Assistant Biologist

After a Master’s Degree in immunology & physiology from the University of Toulouse - France (2015), Clément moved the UK to work for UCB pharma in Slough where he built flow-cytometry and immunoassays around biomarkers. In 2018, he joined F-Star therapeutics in Cambridge to screen and optimise bispecific antibodies so they can cross the blood-brain-barrier. In 2020, he joined ADDI’s screening team to develop high-content imaging assays and run routine screens.

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David Harrison

In Vivo Team Leader

David joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in February 2018 to lead the in vivo biology group. David has spent more than twenty years working as a neuroscientist in the pharmaceutical industry (GSK and Takeda), with spells in academia (Cambridge University Sub-department of Animal Behaviour and Department of Pharmacology). David’s main areas of interest are in in vivo pharmacology, validation of novel drug targets, cognition testing in rodents and transgenic models of neurodegenerative disease.

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David Winpenny

Screening Team Leader

David Winpenny joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in 2016 after >20 years working in Drug Discovery research within industry.  David has worked across a wide range of disease areas and developed assays and HTS for multiple target classes including receptors, ion channels, transporters and enzymes.  David now leads the Screening team at the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute and is responsible for compound libraries and supporting chemistry led projects though screening campaigns and ongoing SAR generation.

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Dr Esperanza Agullo Pascual

Associate Biologist

Esperanza is a cell biologist and imaging scientist. After completing her PhD at Universitat de Barcelona, she moved to NYU Langone as postdoc fellow to work with Dr Mario Delmar and Dr Eli Rothenberg on super-resolution fluorescence microscopy. Her studies focused on the molecular organisation of the cardiac intercalated disc and the mechanisms leading to sudden cardiac death in patients with inheritable arrhythmia syndromes such as ARVC. Following this, she joined the Mount Sinai Microscopy CoRE as senior scientist where she advised researchers on their experimental imaging strategies as well as image analysis. Esperanza joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in April 2022 as a Research Associate.

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Dr Greg Aldred

Associate Chemist

Greg completed his PhD in the field of natural product total synthesis at the University of St Andrews in 2015. After a brief foray into research and development for a fine chemicals contract manufacturing company, he joined the Northern Institute of Cancer Research based at Newcastle University working on the synthesis of kinase inhibitors. From January 2018 Greg has been part of the medicinal chemistry team at the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute working on the design and synthesis small drug-like molecules for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

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Dr Hannah Felstead

Associate Chemist

Hannah obtained her PhD in organic and medicinal chemistry at the University of Southampton, in which she studied the effects of fluorination on lipophilicity and hydrogen bonding properties of small model compounds. Upon completion of her PhD in 2021, she joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute as a member of the synthetic and medicinal chemistry team, working on the design and synthesis of small molecules for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

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Dr Helen Boffey

Senior Chemist

After obtaining her Chemistry PhD at Southampton University, Helen has worked in drug discovery on a variety of biological targets and therapeutic areas, including the delivery of a clinical candidate for a CNS indication. Having gained over nine years’ industrial experience, Helen joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in 2016, where she is currently Senior Chemist and Project Leader.

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Dr Henriëtte Willems

Senior Computational Chemist

Henriëtte joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute as a Senior Research Associate in 2016. She obtained her PhD in Medicinal Chemistry in 1996 from the University of Cambridge. She then joined software company Molecular Simulations (now BIOVIA), and moved into computational chemistry. Subsequently, she worked as a computational chemist for several small biotechs and large pharma companies, including Astex Pharmaceuticals, GSK and Takeda. She has published on several structure-based drug design projects and contributed to drug discovery patents in a wide range of therapeutic areas.

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Dr Iryna Voytyuk

Associate Biologist

Iryna obtained her PhD at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium in the lab of Bart De Strooper, heavily focused on molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders. She studied potential side effects arising from BACE2 cross-inhibition by BACE1 inhibitors that were evaluated in clinical trials for AD at the time. Iryna joined the in vivo Biology team of the ALBORADA DDI in April 2019.

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Dr Jonathan Clarke

Senior Biologist

Jonathan joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in September 2015 from a senior research position in Prof Robin Irvine’s lab in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge. Since completing a PhD in bacterial enzymology and molecular biology at the Babraham Institute he has been working extensively in the fields of cell signalling and lipid biochemistry at both the Netherlands Cancer Institute and the University of Cambridge.

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Dr Laura Blaikie

Associate Biologist

Laura completed her PhD under the supervision of Prof Paul Kong Thoo Lin with a scholarship from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland at Robert Gordon University in collaboration with the University of Minho.  Her research involved developing novel small molecule drugs aimed at targeting the major hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease pathology and evaluating their therapeutic potential using various experimental neurodegenerative disease models including in silico modelling, in vitro assays, cell-based models, and the in vivo C. elegans model.  She joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in September 2023 as a Research Associate in the biology team.

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Dr Laura Thei

Associate Biologist

Following an undergraduate Master’s in Biomedical Science/Neuroscience, Laura worked as an RA in both pancreatic cancer and then peripheral nerve regeneration for many years before obtaining a PhD from UCL in neonatal cerebral brain damage due to hypoxia/ischemia, endotoxin sensitised hypoxia/ischemia, or direct acute brain injury. Following this she went on to Postdoc at Oxford, Reading, and Exeter Universities focusing on protein signalling pathways and ion channel activation contributing to the pathology of neurodegeneration. Laura turned to industry and work at an antibody developing biotech specialising in small chaperone antibodies that cross the blood brain barrier before joining to ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in July 2022 as an Associate Biologist.

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Dr Luisa Giudici

Associate Biologist

Luisa graduated in Biological Sciences from the University of Milano and obtained her PhD from the University of Brescia, Italy. She is a cell biologist and molecular biologist whose main research interests are in cell signalling, lipid intracellular transport and enzymology. Luisa has worked at the University of Utrecht, Netherlands with Prof G. van Meer, at the University of Cambridge with Prof. R. Irvine and at the Babraham Institute with Dr N. Ktistakis and Dr L. Stephens. She joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in March 2019.

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Nicole Mak

Assistant Biologist

Nicole obtained her degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Bath. During her industrial placement year at Samsara Therapeutics, she contributed to the development of autophagy-modulating drugs for Parkinson's Disease. Nicole continues to pursue her interest in drug discovery at the ADDI, where she joined the Cell and Molecular Biology team in 2024.

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Nikhita Annaiyappa

Assistant Biologist

Nikhita gained research experience on mesenchymal stem cells for studying neurodegenerative disorders. Subsequently, she obtained her Master’s degree in Technology with a specialization in biotechnology. She was then involved in research on Fragile-X-syndrome using primary neurons, iPSC derived neuronal cell types and organoid models. She joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in July 2022 as a Research Assistant for the biology team.

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Dr Niklas Philipp Reich

Associate Biologist

Niklas received his MS.c. in Biomedicine (innate immunology) and Ph.D. in Biomedical & Life Sciences (Alzheimer’s disease) from Lancaster University. During his Ph.D. studies, he worked in the group of Prof David Allsop, who was the first to isolate amyloid beta from the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient. Niklas has extensive experience in neurodegeneration, which includes the generation of multiple cellular Tauopathy models, drug testing (such as a Tau aggregation inhibitor peptide) and in vivo work. In a previous position as Visiting Researcher, he also investigated the therapeutic potential of peptide hormones, particularly acylated ghrelin and GLP-1, in Parkinson’s disease models. Niklas joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute as a Research Associate in September 2022, and his current role involves generating a neuronal Tau assay for drug screening.

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Dr Renata Lopes Alves

Assistant Biologist

Renata Lopes Alves has a degree in Biology (Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto), a Master’s Degree in Psychobiology (ISPA - University Institute), and a PhD in Psychology (Cognitive and Affective Neurosciences) conducted at i3S-Institute for Research and Innovation in Health (Addiction Biology Group) and at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Porto (Neuropsychophysiology Lab).  Her main research interests have been to study neurobehaviour, mainly cognitive and affective behaviours, using animal models to mimic humans’ problems. She joined the in vivo Biology team of the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in 2021.

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Dr Stephen Chawner

Associate Chemist

Stephen obtained his Chemistry PhD in 2017 from Imperial College London, in which he developed a novel and divergent synthesis of 3‑dimensional molecular scaffolds for use within drug discovery. Upon completion of his PhD he joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute as a synthetic and medicinal chemist, designing novel small molecules and developing synthetic routes to achieve them in order to drive progress in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.

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Dr Tim Rooney

Senior Chemist

Tim obtained a DPhil from the University of Oxford with Prof Stuart Conway, developing some of the first selective ligands for non-BET bromodomains. In 2014, Tim moved to a postdoctoral position with Prof Chris Abell at the University of Cambridge, using fragment based drug discovery to develop inhibitors of protein-protein interactions. Tim joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute in 2016, helping to get the chemistry labs established, and is currently Senior Chemist and Project Leader.

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Dr Yoo Koung Ko

Associate Biologist

Yoo Koung (YK) is a neuroscientist by training, receiving a BSc (Hons) and PhD from the University of Edinburgh. During her PhD research, she studied synapse biology using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in Prof Seth Grant and Dr Noboru Komiyama labs. Upon completion of her PhD, she joined the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute as Associate Biologist in August 2018.