Tim Willson

Chief Scientist, Research professor


Tim Willson is chief scientist of the SGC-UNC, an open-discovery network for protein kinases based at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. He has more than 25 years of experience in pharmaceutical research with a track record in discovery of first-in-class clinical candidates. Throughout his career, Willson has been an advocate for research on pioneer drug targets. He led the Glaxo program on orphan nuclear receptors that uncovered their role in regulation of human metabolism and was co-discoverer of obeticholic acid, a breakthrough medicine for liver diseases targeting FXR. Willson has been a long time supporter of precompetitive chemistry in early drug discovery and was a scientific founder of the SGC Epigenetic Chemical Probes project. He is widely recognized for scientific leadership in chemical biology and was named one of the world’s 400 most influential biomedical researchers. Outside of science, Willson enjoys the challenge of long course triathlons and has completed eleven Ironman 70.3 distance races.

David Drewry

Research Associate Professor

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David Drewry, Ph.D., is a renowned leader in the medicinal chemistry of protein kinases and is one of the principal architects of the research strategy at the SGC-UNC to build an open and collaborative research network to promote target discovery. He previously enjoyed more than 24 years as a medicinal chemist with GlaxoSmithKline and legacy companies, where he led teams working across the preclinical spectrum of drug discovery. His research interests include the art and science of medicinal chemistry, kinase inhibitor design, utilization of annotated sets of kinase inhibitors to build understanding of signaling networks and precompetitive chemical biology to facilitate target identification. After earning a Bachelor’s of Science degree, cum laude, in chemistry from Yale University, Drewry earned his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley in the laboratory of Paul Bartlett, working on the design, synthesis and mechanistic studies of zinc protease inhibitors. Drewry spent one year as the head of chemistry at Meryx Pharmaceuticals, a biotech startup focused on small-molecule inhibitors of Mer kinase that was a spinoff from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

William Zuercher



Bill Zuercher, Ph.D., is a principal investigator for target validation at the SGC-UNC and research associate professor in the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Bill draws on 15 years of experience in medicinal chemistry at GlaxoSmithKline where he led programs to develop chemical probes to enable research into lesser studied kinases and orphan nuclear receptors. He made significant contributions to the design, development, and utilization of the Published Kinase Inhibitor Set (PKIS) as an open resource to stimulate kinase research, an effort that helped form the basis for the SGC-UNC. Bill's research interests include the generation and application of chemical probes and highly annotated compound sets to test biological hypotheses and to define new ones.  Bill's hobbies include obstacle course racing, crossword puzzles and pickling.

Alison Axtman

Research Assistant Professor

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Alison Axtman, Ph.D., is a principal investigator in medicinal chemistry at SGC-UNC and research assistant professor in the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry Department in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Her interests lie at the interface of chemistry and biology, with a focus on using small molecule kinase modulators to explore and impact disease-propagating biological pathways. She joined SGC-UNC after working at GlaxoSmithKline on the Chemical Biology team at the RTP site. Before that, Axtman completed her doctorate at the University of Kansas in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry with Brian Blagg and postdoctoral studies at Stanford University in the laboratory of Paul Wender. She is eager to enable the efforts of other investigators through sharing small molecule tools to speed the drug discovery process.

Carrow Wells

Research Associate

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Carrow Wells comes to the SGC-UNC following a 10 year career at GlaxoSmithKline where she developed and applied diverse skills in medicinal chemistry, chemical biology, and cell biology to the discovery of innovative drugs. Most recently she was a team leader in the GSK Chemical Biology department, directing an effort to identify the biological target of drug molecules using biocompatible chemical reactions and quantitative mass spectrometry. Wells is a graduate of NC State and is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. At the SGC-UNC, Carrow leads a program of chemical probe synthesis and target identification for the historically understudied kinases. When she is not synthesizing awesome molecules Wells enjoys being outdoors — running, gardening, and going for walks with her dog.

Kim Swain

Center Administrator

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Kim Swain moved to NC in 2015, after living in Vermont for 40 years. She previously worked in the field of Physician Recruitment at the University of Vermont Department of Surgery.

Julie Pickett

Cell Biologist

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After receiving a BS in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Julie worked in drug development and synthetic organic chemistry for PPD Discovery in Research Triangle Park, NC. Following this, she returned to the University of North Carolina to work on high-throughput site-directed mutagenesis with Dr. Marshall Edgell. She then went back to chemistry for her PhD, adding radiochemistry and opiate pharmacology to the mix in the lab of Dr. Gavril Pasternak at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, before studying molecular imaging in cell and animal models of cancer with Dr. Daniel Thorek at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Joseph Pilotte

Cell Biologist

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Joseph obtained both his B.S. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Master of Physiology degrees from North Carolina State University. He is knowledgeable in the areas of cell biology, biochemistry, and genetics, and has professional experience in both academic and clinical research settings.

Alfredo Picado

Postdoctoral Research Associate

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Alfredo obtained his B.S. in Chemistry at the University of Costa Rica and his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Clemson University in South Carolina under the supervision of Dr. Karl Dieter.  His research focused on the development of new organocopper reagents for synthesis of highly functionalized synthons and heterocycles.  During graduate school he spent one year at GlaxoSmithKline in Philadelphia, working on the synthesis of small molecule inhibitors of ion channels involved in heart failure.  He currently works under the supervision of Dr. David Drewry.

Benjamin Eduful

Postdoctoral Research Associate

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Benjamin is a medicinal chemist who obtained his BSc in Chemistry from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, and MSc in Clinical Pharmacology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK, where he analysed various biochemical and haematological markers to predict outcome after stroke. He completed his PhD in Organic/Medicinal Chemistry at the University of South Florida under the direct supervision of Prof. James W. Leahy. Benjamin’s thesis was focused on the design, synthesis and biological evaluation of small molecules as treatment for infectious and neurodegenerative diseases.

Sean O'Byrne

Postdoctoral Research Associate

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Sean is a medicinal chemist with a keen interest in the synthesis and applications of protein inhibitors and activity-based probes to elucidate drug targets and identify therapeutic opportunities. He has extensive experience in route design, multistep synthesis, purification and characterization of complex small molecules, as well as expertise in the design and synthesis of BODIPY fluorescent dyes. During his PhD research in the University of Glasgow, he worked on two distinct projects. He developed an effective anti-parasitic drug delivery system which selectively targets infected host cells. His second project involved the synthesis of self-reporting activity-based probes for kinases, allowing for detection of covalent bond formation between proteins and ligands.

Louisa Temme

Postdoctoral Research Associate

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Louisa Temme is a pharmacist who obtained her doctoral degree, summa cum laude, from Westfälische-Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Department of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry, Germany. In the working group of Prof. Bernhard Wünsch she gained experience in organic synthesis, medicinal chemistry and functional assay establishment during the development of novel neuroprotective molecules for the treatment of Morbus Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. To identify and analyze drug-target interactions of these negative allosteric modulators for the ifenprodil binding site of the GluN1a/GluN2B NMDA receptor she additionally learned and performed in silico docking and virtual screening of chemical libraries during a research stay at the lab of Prof. Wolfgang Sippl (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany).

Former SGC-UNC Postdocs - Where are they now?

Yi Liang is an Associate Director with Wuxi Apptech in Wuhan City, China.

Christopher Asquith is a Postdoc Research Associate in Gary Johnson's Pharmacology lab in the UNC School of Medicine.

Nirav Kapadia is a Synthetic Organic Chemist with Adesis, Inc in New Castle, Delaware.

Carla Alamillo Ferrer is a Research Scientist with Eurofins Villapharma in Fuente Álamo de Murchia, Spain.