Kelly Chibale a synthetic organic chemist by training. His research has largely been in the field of global health drug discovery. He has a keen interest in integrating medicinal chemistry with biology and pre-clinical pharmacology, including drug metabolism and pharmacokinetic studies to guide the progression of drug leads. He his the Founder and Director of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Holistic Drug Discovery & Development (H3D) Centre (, the first and only one of its kind in Africa. H3D is a cross-faculty centre (spanning Science and Health Sciences faculties) and has been harnessing the skills and expertise in the drug discovery value chain – integrating medicinal chemistry, biology, pharmacology as well as a drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics.

As the PI on multiple malaria and tuberculosis (TB) drug discovery projects, he has led international project teams involving partners on multiple continents working on a portfolio of drug discovery projects at various stages of the value chain.  As an example, he is the institutional (UCT) PI on the Malaria Drug Accelerator (MalDA) and Tuberculosis Drug Accelerator (TBDA) international consortia funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).  The MalDA Consortium is an innovative target-guided discovery platform and collaboration between fourteen international groups, linking phenotypic hits to function for malaria.  On the other hand, the TBDA is a groundbreaking partnership between eight innovative pharmaceutical companies, a biotech, eleven research institutions, and a product development partnership that seeks to develop a new TB drug regimen through collaboration in early-stage drug discovery research. 

He has led an international project team involving Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) that discovered the first ever small molecule clinical candidate (MMV390048 or MMV048), for any disease, researched on African soil by an African drug discovery centre.  MMV048, a novel Plasmodium phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase inhibitor reached Phase 2 human clinical trials in African patients in Ethiopia. The same international team under my leadership identified UCT943 as a preclinical candidate back-up to MMV048. He is also currently leading a portfolio of malaria and tuberculosis drug discovery projects that involve international teams in collaboration with innovative pharmaceutical companies and not-for-profit virtual R&D organizations.