Centre for Drug Development leadership team

Our team of outstanding drug development professionals are responsible for our day-to-day business operations and our strategic development.

The CDD has a team of over 100 drug development and operational staff, the majority of which are based at the CRUK head office in London. We have similar functional teams to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, enabling us to take promising discoveries from exploratory and pre-clinical phases through to sponsorship and into early phase clinical trials.

Dr Nigel Blackburn, Director of Drug Development

Nigel leads the CDD and is responsible for CRUK's early drug development programmes, which include pre-clinical development and early clinical testing of novel anti-cancer agents. Nigel and his team at the CDD are currently managing the early development of over 20 novel agents. 

Nigel joined CRUK in May 2009 as Director of Drug Development, having previously held a variety of senior leadership roles in the pharma and biotech industries. He has experience of all phases of clinical drug development and a broad range of therapeutic modalities and disease areas. Nigel holds a biochemistry degree and PhD in physiology.

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Dr Robert Williams, Chief Drug Development Scientist

Rob leads our pre-clinical and medical research teams. He is responsible for delivering a large portfolio of drug discovery and development programmes including small molecules, antibodies, cell and gene therapies.

Rob joined CRUK in 2004, having previously held leadership positions in a number of therapeutic areas outside of oncology. He has extensive experience in strategic and operational business planning having worked within pharmaceutical, biotechnology and not-for-profit sectors. 

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Dr Sarah Halford, Head of Medical Sciences

Sarah is a medical oncologist, who heads up our team of experienced medics, all of whom have been working in oncology drug development for a number of years. She is also an Honorary Consultant in medical oncology at Barts and the London School of Medicine.

Following her undergraduate studies at Oxford University, Sarah completed her clinical training in London. Prior to joining CRUK in 2007, Sarah completed her CCT in medical oncology at University College London Hospital and her PhD in cancer genetics, as a CRUK-funded translational clinical research fellow. She is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, and an associate member of the faculty of pharmaceutical medicine.

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Dr Stephen Nabarro, Head of Clinical Operations and Data Management

Steve and his team are responsible for building and managing the clinical trial databases for all CDD sponsored trials, as well as monitoring and supporting the delivery of the trials in accordance with ICH GCP guidelines and UK regulatory requirements.

Steve joined CRUK in 2007, having previously completed a PhD at University College London in paediatric cancer immunotherapy, which was followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology

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Dr Renata Chrome, Head of Study, Project and Portfolio Management

Renata joined the CDD in 2015 and was appointed to lead a team of project leaders, clinical study managers and portfolio managers accountable for delivery of the CDD portfolio.

Renata began her career as an academic scientist before joining the pharmaceutical industry in 1985 at Hoffman La Roche. Her expertise spans global pharmaceutical project and functional leadership, and she has over 30 years extensive experience in the scientific and clinical development, regulatory approval and the commercialisation of new medicines. She has led projects at all stages of development, from early discovery to life-cycle management, for Roche’s key projects including Tamiflu, Avastin and Gazyva. 

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Heike Lentfer, Head of Biotherapeutics Development & Drug Supply

Heike is responsible for managing the development and manufacture of novel biologics drug candidates for early phase clinical trials sponsored by CRUK. As head of the Biotherapeutics Development Unit she manages a team of 20 staff and has overall responsibility for quality and regulatory compliance of manufacturing activities. She provides scientific and technical expertise to CDD’s new projects review team.

Heike has over 20 years of experience in the biotechnology field. She started her career at the Technical University of Berlin developing novel biomanufacturing technology. Heike moved to the UK in 1999 working for several biotech companies, gaining expertise in mammalian cell culture technology and characterisation of biologics products before joining CRUK in 2009.

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Susan Waller, Head of Quality, Regulatory and Pharmacovigilance

Sue heads up a collection of small functional teams who ensure that all trials sponsored by CDD are run to the highest quality and remain compliant will all safety and regulatory standards. 

Since joining CRUK in 1999, Sue has worked for a number of teams within the department including Clinical Operations and Project and Portfolio Management. Before joining CRUK, Sue worked for nine years in a pre-clinical drug development group at the Wellcome Research Laboratories and at a small London based clinical research organisation. Sue holds a degree in Biochemistry from the University of Surrey and an MSc in Biopharmacy from King's College London. 

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April Shropshire, Head of Legal

April manages a small team of lawyers and is responsible for the delivery of the contracts necessary for CDD’s portfolio, taking clinical trial projects from early due diligence/exploratory phase, through to opening and operating in the clinic.

Prior to joining CRUK, April worked for many years in pharma and biotech companies, and is a specialist in the legislative and regulatory framework surrounding clinical trials, and all aspects of contracts required for trials. She has worked on various clinical trial working parties set up by industry associations and competent authorities, with the view to raising clinical trial standards and increasing efficiencies in trial set up time. April has a law degree, is qualified as a solicitor, and has an MBA.

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Scientific Executive Board

The Centre for Drug Development is overseen by CRUK's Scientific Executive Board, chaired by Sir Harpal Kumar with Professor Karen Vousden, CRUK Chief Scientist, and Professor Peter Johnson, CRUK Chief Clinician.

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