Barker Lecture 2014

Once again the department of chemistry hosted its annual Barker lecture, which was well attended with an audience drawn from across the departments at Rhodes. The 2014 Barker lecture was given by Dr Richard Gordon from The South African Medical Research Council (MRC), where he is a director of an initiative called Strategic Health Innovation Partnership (SHIP). Dr Gordon is also a senior investment case specialist at Technology Innovative Agency (TIA). He is an example of someone who has left the laboratory and moved to the commercial side of medicinal chemistry. He currently manages a project investment fund at the MRC and specializes in setting up multidisciplinary collaborations.

The Barker Lecture was entitled “Can South Africa play in the global biopharmaceutical world? Why do we have to...” The current progress of MMV390048, a chemical compound that was discovered by Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and H3-D drug discovery center in Cape Town, as an antimalarial agent, was used as an example to address the question of whether South Africa can be a “player” in the global biopharmaceutical world. Responding to “why” he mentioned the impact of the bad “big five”, i.e. sleeping sickness, tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDs, diarrhea and malaria in the continent of Africa. Along with the big five, Dr Gordon highlighted diabetes and maternal health as being health issues that will cause a huge burden on health systems moving into the future. In addition, he presented two sessions on Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery. These lectures were aimed to illustrate key drug discovery technologies which enable the translation of a chemical compound from the bench top to the bed side.


Interesting facts:

Dr Gordon makes wine as a hobby.

He is a keen golfer and plays off a handicap of 3.

As a true chemist, he loves cooking!

He is a chartered marketer.

Dr Gordon oversaw the launch of products on the global market generating more than R100M in sales in 3 years.

Advice for students:

Think Big and be open minded. Embrace change and work hard. 

Good science always gets funded.

Whining never helps.

 Be persistent.