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 six Ironman 70.3 distance races.
Willson has been a long-time supporter of precompetitive chemistry as a mechanism to bring innovation to early drug discovery. His team has made potent and selective chemical probes for orphan nuclear receptors widely available in the scientific community. He was a scientific founder of the SGC Epigenetic Chemical Probes project that led to the release into the public domain of more than 30 chemical probes that specifically inhibit enzyme modifiers and protein readers of the histone tails.