Our team

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

Dr John Davis

Chief Scientific Officer (CSO)

Following postdoctoral training at the Ludwig Institute and the Salk Institute, John joined GlaxoSmithKline where he led a variety of non-clinical pharmacology research departments for pain and neurodegenerative diseases. In 2010, John and colleagues formed the spinout company Convergence Pharmaceuticals, which John later left to become Director of Discovery for Selcia Ltd., and CSO and cofounder of Cypralis Ltd. John has 20 years of drug discovery expertise from target to phase IIa and has helped steer a dozen drug candidates into clinical development and to four positive proof of concepts.

Our Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) leads the Oxford Drug Discovery Institute and drives scientific progress. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss potential collaborations.

Prof Paul Brennan

Head of Chemistry

Paul received his PhD in organic chemistry from UC Berkeley working on combinatorial chemistry and antibiotics. Following post-doctoral research at the University of Cambridge on total synthesis, Paul returned to California to take a position at Amgen. His research was focussed on kinase inhibitors for oncology. After two years at Amgen, Paul moved to Pfizer in Sandwich, UK. In 2011, Paul joined the Structural Genomics Consortium as the Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Nuffield Department of Medicine to discover chemical probes for epigenetic proteins.

Dr Emma Murphy

Assay Development and Screening Team Leader

Emma received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Leicester where she studied the function and mechanism of heme peroxidases and the engineered introduction of novel catalytic activities. Emma continued working on biophysical characterisation of peroxidases as a postdoctoral researcher at University College London before moving to the University of Colorado. Here Emma used a combination of high-throughput in silico and medium-throughput biophysical screening to discover novel compounds that bind to and disrupt the normal functioning of mosquito odorant binding proteins. Emma joined the ODDI in 2015 as an assay development and screening scientist and since 2018 Emma has led the assay development and screening team who develop and run biochemical and biophysical high-throughput screening assays. The team aims to identify chemical matter as tool compounds to validate novel neurodegeneration targets and as potential leads for therapeutic intervention.

Margarida Ruas

Team leader

Margarida received her PhD from Imperial College London, for her work on cancer research at the CRUK LIF Institute, and she pursued her interest in cancer research by taking a post-doctoral research position at the John Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge. Since 2002, her research work on fundamental aspects of endolysosomal biology, has led to the
development of molecular tools, cellular assays and animal models to better understand the role of lysosomes as signalling hubs. She held a Todd Bird Junior Research Fellowship in Biochemistry at New College Oxford. Margarida joined the ODDI to set up and lead the Organelle Biology team aiming to validate targets for therapeutic intervention and develop early drug discovery projects to correct organelle dysfunction that contribute to neurodegenerative phenotypes.

Dr Emma Mead

Senior Biologist and Team Leader

Emma received her PhD in Neuroscience from University College London, investigating the role of reactive oxygen species in modulating neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. Following a post-doctoral research position at Cardiff University, where she studied the mechanism of action of naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compounds, Emma joined Eli Lilly as a senior scientist and team co-ordinator. Emma worked in target validation and early drug discovery for neurodegeneration, and established an in vitro neuroinflammation assay platform. Emma now leads the neuroinflammation team at the ODDI, who utilise human iPSC macrophage and primary microglial cultures for target validation, and develop cell based screening assays for progression of neuroinflammatory projects.

Lead Academic Scientists

Our Lead Academic Scientists act as ambassadors for the Oxford Drug Discovery Institute, facilitating interactions with scientists and access to resources within the University of Oxford and beyond.

Prof Chas Bountra

Chas Bountra is currently Professor of Translational Medicine at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, Head of the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) and an Associate Head for the Medical Sciences Division, at the University of Oxford. He has more than two decades of academic and industrial experience in target identification, lead discovery, lead optimisation, and designing phase II and III studies in several neuro-psychiatric, gastro-intestinal and inflammatory conditions. He has now established the SGC as a world leading outfit for human protein structural biology and the chemical biology of epigenetics. Prof Bountra was voted one of the top innovators in the industry in 2012.