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William A. Denny, PhD, DSc

Bill Denny received his M.Sc. (1st class) in 1967 and his Ph.D. (under the direction of Professor Con Cambie) in 1969, from the University of Auckland. He then went to Oxford University (UK) (1969-1972) on Salter’s and ICI Fellowships, where he was a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College and undertook post-doctoral training in the Dyson Perrins Laboratory, working under the direction of Professor Sir Ewart Jones on the microbiological hydroxylation of steroids.

Bill then returned to New Zealand and joined the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC) at the University of Auckland as a Senior Research Fellow (1972-1979), working on development of the topo II inhibitor amsacrine, which was FDA-approved in 1984 in a collaboration with Parke-Davis. From 1978-1981 he was a visiting professor at the University of California, San Diego, working in Dr David Kearns’ group on NMR studies of drug/DNA binding kinetics. He then returned to the ACSRC as Deputy-Director (1981-1989) and subsequently as Director (1979-present). From 2002-present he has also been a Management Principal Investigator in the Maurice Wilkins Centre of Research Excellence.

In addition to amsacrine, the ACSRC under Bill’s leadership has to date brought a further 12 drugs to clinical trial (dates given), in collaboration with a range of outside partners; topo II inhibitors Asulacrine (Sparta, 1986), DACA (Xenova, 1995);  XR-11576 (Xenova, 2001) and MLN-944 (Millenium, 2003); vascular disrupting agent Vadimezan (Novartis, 1999); kinase inhibitors canertinib (Pfizer, 2000) and PWT597 (Pathway, 2011); blood-cleansing anti-viral agent S-303 (Cerus Corp, 2003); hypoxia-activated prodrugs PR-104 (Proacta, 2006) and tarloxotinib (Threshold, 2012); tuberculosis drug TBA-354 (Global Alliance for TB, 2015) and leishmaniasis drug DNDi-690 (DNDi, expected 2017). He has supervised/co-supervised 11 Ph.D. students to successful completion of their degrees.


Bill has served on the editorial boards of a number of scientific journals, including J. Med. Chem. (ACS, 1995-2001 & 2013-present), ACS Med. Chem. Lett. (ACS, 2012-present), Mol. Cancer Ther. (AACR, 2007-present), Oncology Res. (OUP, 2006-present), Exp. Opin. Inv. Drugs (Ashley, 2005-present), Curr. Opin. Oncol. Metab. Drugs (Current Drugs, 2005-present), Anti-Cancer Drugs (LWW, 2007-2009) and Med. Chem. Rev. (Bentham, 2004-2006). He has also served terms as President of the NZ Institute of Chemistry (1995-1977) and as President of the NZ Society for Oncology (1995-1996).        

He has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the Rutherford Medal of the Royal Society of NZ (1995), appointment as an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit (Queen’s Birthday Honours List, 2003), the UK Royal Society of Chemistry Adrien Albert Medal (2005), the Australian Chemical Institute Adrien Albert Award (2006), NZ Biotechnologist of the Year Award (NZBio, 2007), the NZ Society for Oncology Commercialisation Award (2012), the University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor’s Commercialisation Medal (2012), and the American Chemical Society Medicinal Chemistry Award (2014).

Bill was a co-founding scientist of the start-up companies Proacta Inc (San Diego, 2001-2014) and Pathway Therapeutics (San Francisco, 2007-2012). He is an author/co-author on 660 publications (including reviews and book chapters) and a co-inventor on 47 issued US patents. In 2011 he was appointed to a Distinguished Professorship at the University of Auckland.


ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry

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