Professor Kelly Chibale

Drug Discovery Group

Professor Kelly Chibale PhD (Cambridge)

Professor, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Cape Town (UCT); Member, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM); Neville Isdell Chair in African-centric Drug Discovery & Development; Director, South African Medical Research Council/UCT Drug Discovery and Development Research Unit; founder and director, UCT Holistic Drug Discovery and Development (H3D) Centre; chairman and CEO H3D Foundation.

Kelly Chibale’s research programme is driven within the Department of Chemistry and H3D Centre at UCT, with laboratory staff and students partially based in the IDM. Their current target- and phenotypically-driven drug discovery programmes against the causative agents of malaria, tuberculosis, antimicrobial resistance (drug- resistant infections of bacterial origin) and Covid-19 infections, has the main objective of delivering preclinical drug development candidates. An attendant objective is elucidating the mechanism of action, through target identification, of drug leads derived from the phenotypic whole- cell-based approach.
The research programme also focusses on the development of preclinical discovery tools and models to contribute to improving treatment outcomes in people of African heritage. Examples of current research projects include:

  1. targeted covalent inhibition of Plasmodium kinases,
  2. exploring polypharmacology for inhibition of P. falciparum growth,
  3. drug repurposing or repositioning for malaria,
  4. artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) approaches to accelerate drug discovery for infectious diseases,
  5. human dose predictions for the treatment of malaria via physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modelling of in vitro and in vivo data,
  6. evaluating the influence of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the microbiome on the pharmacokinetics of drugs commonly used in African populations by developing relevant physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models, and
  7. utilising AI/ML to identify genetic variants that are prevalent in Africa and likely to affect the metabolism of drugs and incorporate prevalent genetic variants as covariates in established PBPK and non-linear mixed effects (NLME) models, with the overarching goal of creating the necessary tools to advance the design of tailored drug dosages in specific groups/categories in African populations.

Kelly's earlier work has included asymmetric synthesis utilising sulfur and organolanthanide chemistry as well as the total synthesis of natural and designed biologically active molecules.

Selected publications:

See publications and profile on Research Gate and ORCID.

Contact details:

Department of Chemistry and IDM
Faculty of Science,
University of Cape Town
Rondebosch, 7701
South Africa

Tel:  27 (0)21 650 2553
Fax: 27 (0)21 650 4521

Alternate sites:

Group members:

Research officers, technical assistants, postdoctoral fellows and student details can be viewed here and here 


Additionally, two Research Officers in Kelly Chibale’s broader research team, Dr Kathryn Wicht and Dr John Woodland, are part of the first cohort of IDM Fellows.


Collaborative partners can be viewed here: