Skip to main content

Senior Leadership Team

Gavin Hirst, Ph.D.

Vice President of Discovery Research

Primary Responsibilities:

Dr. Hirst is responsible for directing and integrating the research activities within the Medicinal Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Drug Safety, DMPK/Analytical Sciences and Research Informatics groups in support of Takeda California's oncology, inflammation, and metabolic disease programs. His group is committed to leveraging their structure-based design skills and antibody capabilities to deliver competitively differentiated Investigational New Drug (IND) candidates that meet compelling target product profiles. In addition, Dr. Hirst works closely with the executive team to provide a cross functional interface with key groups in Core Science and Technologies and also Exploratory Medicine in support of TCAL's discovery efforts


Dr. Hirst has 22 years of drug discovery experience across five therapeutic areas, 12 of which have been dedicated to structure-based drug discovery. Most recently Dr. Hirst was Senior Director of Medicinal Chemistry at Takeda San Diego. Prior to Takeda, Dr. Hirst worked as Senior Director of Chemistry at SGX Pharmaceuticals, a leading fragment-based drug discovery organization. In this position, he was jointly responsible for determining and executing on SGX's research and development strategy across the Oncology portfolio. Before SGX, Dr. Hirst was Associate Director of Chemistry at Abbot Bioresearch Center (ABC), Abbot Laboratory's center of excellence for Immunology research in small molecules and antibody therapeutics where he had multiple project leadership roles. Dr. Hirst began his career at Glaxo Smith Kline as a Research Investigator in Medicinal Chemistry for metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.


  • B.S. in Chemistry from University of Bradford, UK
  • Ph. D. in Organic Chemistry from Southampton University, UK
  • Post Doctoral Studies under Professor Larry Overman at University of California, Irvine


  • American Chemical Society
  • Royal Society of Chemistry


Dr. Hirst has helped to deliver multiple clinical candidates spanning three therapeutic areas. Additionally, he is the author of more than 50 publications and patents.

In my own words:

  • Aspirations for the Group I Lead:
    • I strive towards TCAL being both the premiere structure and fragment-based design group in the industry and also the center of excellence for Takeda's therapeutic antibody research. We need to leverage both our SBDD and antibody expertise to produce a sustainable track record of delivering high quality and timely clinical candidates to the development group.

  • Why I Chose My Profession:
    • I was always one of those kids that were intrigued by science. I remember the first time I put a pencil in glass of water and saw it bend e. It wasn't until later that I realized that it was just physics of light. It was a natural progression for me to follow along to the chemical and biological sciences. I've always found organic chemistry to be very a beautiful science because it melds together a variety of different concepts that ring true to me. Pharmaceutical drug discovery was something that didn't really come along for me until I was in the second year of my Ph.D. at the University of Southampton. The former head of research at Glaxo Smith Kline gave a presentation that really struck me. He talked about some truly interesting organic chemistry and showed me that in the pharmaceutical industry, very challenging chemistry is executed at the interface of biology. For me, that was exciting. It looked to me like pharmaceutical drug discovery was where I wanted to be. And as they say, "the rest is history." I've spent over 20 years at various organizations doing exactly that.

  • Favorite Quote:
    • Hope is not a strategy. — Unknown

      You'll hear it quite often in drug discovery, "We hope we can identify a better molecule..." However, hope is not going to get you very far. Applying this to Takeda, charting our research path cannot be left to chance and good fortune and it demands clear strategies with efficient execution.

      We either hang together or we hang together. — Former Supervisor from Abbott

      This is an altered version of the quote by Benjamin Franklin "We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." My former supervisor at Abbot adapted it and made it a little different. It captures that we, as a team, have to place a premium on the team performance. We define our strategy as a team, execute it as a team, and if we don't, then we will be responsible for our failures as a team. Collective accountability within a team is critical to its cohesiveness and effectiveness. I place a premium on a team defining and then delivering on their agreed strategy, plans, and actions.

  • The Other Side of Me:
    • The two things that have been with me for the last 20 or so years of my life are cycling and photography, and San Diego is such a perfect place for both of these! I am an avid cyclist and average about 200 miles a week. I also have two young daughters, so most of my photography is centered around them. My wife and two daughters keep me grounded