Veteran drug hunter adds discovery expertise to technology-enabled biopharma company

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — September 14, 2022Atomwise, a leader in using artificial intelligence (AI) for small molecule drug discovery, today announced the appointment of Gavin Hirst, Ph.D., as Chief Scientific Officer. Dr. Hirst brings more than 30 years of expertise in drug discovery across a range of therapeutic areas. He was instrumental in the discovery and development of lorpucitinib and mivatonib, and is co-inventor of vaborbactam, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in combination with meropenem. Most recently, Dr. Hirst served as Interim CSO of Turning Point Therapeutics, which was acquired in August by Bristol Myers Squibb for $4.1 billion.

“At Atomwise, we continue to reimagine how drug discovery should be done, now that our AI-enabled engine allows us to interrogate novel chemical space and gives us the potential to drug challenging targets,” said Abraham Heifets, Ph.D., Co-Founder and CEO of Atomwise. “Gavin brings deep expertise in structure- and fragment-based drug discovery, and a fantastic track record in driving those initial discoveries to become new medicines to help patients. We are thrilled that he is joining our team.”

In his new role, Dr. Hirst will set the company’s strategic vision for drug discovery and provide scientific oversight of Atomwise’s research and development pipeline.

“So much of drug discovery today re-treads known chemistry space or targets. Atomwise’s global machine learning models let us explore new chemical space and find tractable bioactive molecules,” said Dr. Hirst. “I’m particularly excited to apply Atomwise’s leading AI-enabled predictive engine to focus on the discovery and optimization of small molecules. I look forward to leading the Atomwise team of talented scientists and applying the company’s unique discovery platform as we advance our molecules through preclinical development and into the clinic.”

Dr. Hirst has more than 30 years’ experience in the biopharmaceutical industry. He joins Atomwise after serving as Interim Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President of Chemistry at Turning Point Therapeutics, where as he applied structure-based drug design expertise to exploit innovative protein-ligand interactions in the de novo design of precision medicines, including for KRASG12D and the p21 activated kinase (PAK). During previous work at Janssen, Dr. Hirst oversaw a broad portfolio of small-molecule programs targeting a diverse set of autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis. He chaired the Global Medicinal Chemistry Council, and was the global chemistry representative for the cheminformatics steering committee. Dr. Hirst guided his teams to deliver a number of clinical-stage assets, such as the Pan-JAK family selective inhibitor lorpucitinib, now in clinical development for the treatment of familial adenomatous polyposis, a form of colorectal cancer. Earlier, he was Vice President of Discovery Research, directing immunology, oncology, and metabolic diseases at Takeda, delivering multiple INDs, most notably mivatonib, a SYK inhibitor, now in phase II for DLBCL and other non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.

About Atomwise
Atomwise is a technology-enabled pharmaceutical company leveraging the power of AI to revolutionize small molecule drug discovery. The Atomwise team invented the use of deep learning for structure-based drug design; this technology underpins Atomwise’s best-in-class AI discovery engine, which is differentiated by its ability to find and optimize novel chemical matter. Atomwise has extensively validated its discovery engine, having demonstrated the ability to find compounds with therapeutic potential for biological targets in 90% of internal programs and more than 70% of the company’s 270 academic collaborations, including across a wide variety of protein types and multiple “hard to drug” targets. Atomwise is building a wholly-owned pipeline of small-molecule drug candidates, with three programs in lead-optimization and over 30 programs in discovery. The company has raised over $194 million from leading venture capital firms and collaborations to advance its mission to make better medicines, faster. Learn more at or follow @AtomwiseInc.

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