26 May 2021 Volume :9 Issue :19

Global Shapers Community Curator Graduates with PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Global Shapers Community Curator Graduates with PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Dr Clement Agoni at the computer lab on UKZN’s Westville campus.

Dr Clement Agoni, a member of the World Economic Forum’s initiative Global Shapers Community where he currently serves as its curator, graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry for his study titled: Computer-Aided Approaches In Drug Design: The Exigent Way Forward: Dynamic Perspectives into the Mechanistic Activities of Small Molecule Inhibitors Toward Antiviral, Antitubercular and Anticancer Therapeutic Interventions.

The study was supervised by renowned pharmaceutical chemist, Professor Mahmoud Soliman, Head of UKZN’s Molecular Bio-Computation and Drug Design Laboratory.

Ghanaian-born Agoni is a medical laboratory scientist with an innate passion for youth and community development. He graduated with a master's degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry summa cum laude. With several peer-reviewed research articles to his credit, Agoni’s research focuses on the applications of computer-aided techniques to explore drug-target interactions towards the design of new and improved therapeutic agents for diseases of global health concern such as tuberculosis, cancer, and viral infections. His extensive research output during his doctoral study culminated in him being ranked amongst UKZN’s top 10 published students in 2019.

Despite the availability of several therapeutic interventions against viral infections, tuberculosis and cancer still feature prominently in the top 10 global causes of death. Their persistence has been due to chemotherapeutic resistance and associated toxic effects. Agoni’s study explored various computer aided drug design (CADD) techniques which combine with experimental methods to potentially accelerate the drug discovery of novel inhibitors that overcome the challenges associated with existing conventional therapeutic remedies against these diseases.

Agoni offers crucial atomistic and structural insights that could aid in designing small molecule inhibitors against the respective biological targets which also possess improved therapeutic properties. His study also defined these therapeutic targets’ binding landscape and presented a prospective design of selective and unique inhibitors with critical pharmacophoric features that will aid in developing targeted and effective small molecule inhibitors towards overcoming chemotherapeutic resistance and minimising toxicity effects.

Agoni has championed many community projects including medical outreach initiatives and mental health awareness drives in Umlazi, beach clean-ups, and a COVID-19 response initiative dubbed “ShapersCare”, which provided food hampers to households during the COVID-19 national lockdown. He currently serves on a 11-member international COVID-19 Steering Committee of the Global Shapers Community tasked to inspire, empower and connect the Global Shapers Community's work on COVID-19.

He has also trained as a Climate Reality Leader under the Climate Reality project of former United States Vice-President, Al Gore tasked to lead discussions on climate crisis issues through seminars, presentations, and stakeholder deliberations.

Agoni said: ‘I owe my achievements to the expert guidance of Professor Mahmoud Soliman, who also provided a fatherly mentorship during the course of my studies. I must acknowledge the support of my family who have painstakingly endured these long years in school. I will always seek to “live a life that leaves a legacy (L3)” regardless of my location on the globe.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Rogan Ward 

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