Paul Workman is a multidisciplinary cancer research scientist who has been responsible for the laboratory discovery and progression into the clinic of many innovative cancer drugs. His speciality is designing personalised medicines that are targeted to precise molecular abnormalities and vulnerabilities – an approach he refers to as 'drugging the cancer genome'. Furthermore, he conceptualized and exemplified in practice a systematic approach known as the 'Pharmacological Audit Trail' that uses various measurable biomarkers to aid rational decision-making in drug development.
Paul has also discovered chemical probes (or tools) used to understand the function of suspected cancer-causing proteins and to validate them as therapeutic targets. He has shed light on the mechanism by which many cancer drugs work and how drug resistance can develop – and more recently focused on novel approaches to overcome the mechanisms involved in the evolution of therapeutic resistance in cancer patients. Paul is probably best known as a molecular pharmacologist and chemical biologist who with colleagues has discovered numerous inhibitors (drugs and chemical probes) of protein and lipid kinases (eg PI3 kinases) as well as molecular chaperones (eg Hsp90).
Paul has built and led several successful teams in academia – where he has been a champion of the non-profit, centre of disease excellence, team science model – and also in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Between 1997 and 2016 he was Director of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, where he oversaw the discovery of twenty drug candidates, twelve of which have progressed into clinical trials, and saw abiraterone approved as a treatment for prostate cancer.
From 2014-2021 he served as Chief Executive and President of ICR where he directed strategic developments in the field of basic, translational and clinical cancer research. In addition, he served as Founding Director of the Cancer Research Centre of Excellence at ICR and Imperial College and also of the Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre at ICR/Imperial.
Paul talks, writes and blogs about cancer research and treatment and also about the drug discovery ecosystem.
Paul has received a number awards including the American Association of Cancer Research Team Science Award (Team Leader); the Cancer Research UK Translational Cancer Research Prize; the George and Christine Sosnovsky Award and World Entrepreneur Award, both of the Royal Society of Chemistry; and the international Raymond Bourgine Award for excellence in cancer research. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, Fellow of the European Academy Cancer Sciences, and a Cancer Research UK Life Fellow. During his period as head of ICR, the organization received a Queen's Anniversary Prize for its research in drug discovery and development.