Alex Gaither

Alex Gaither manages a drug discovery team and several drug target validation projects at Novartis. His team’s mission is to identify novel oncogenes to validate their functional role and investigate their feasibility as therapeutic targets feasibility. A core team of researchers supports the portfolio validation process, including five biology labs, a histopathology group, quantitative biology experts, and a animal model group. Gaither oversees a diverse array of projects that delve into functional antibodies, antibody drug conjugates, and therapeutic siRNAs. Gaither utilizes a multitude of cell based and genome-editing (including CRISPR/Cas9) techniques to identify and validate drug target sites. His team has built multiple CRISPR libraries and screened numerous cell lines in order to a construct an impressive compendium of oncongenes. Gaither has been working at Novartis since 2001, spending the majority of his time between the Functional Genomics, Genome and Proteome Sciences, Developmental and Molecular Pathways, and Oncology departments. Prior to coming to Novartis, Gaither was a post-doctoral scientist at the University of Missouri in Columbia. He worked in Dr. Dalia Cohen’s lab on Alzheimer’s disease target discovery and validation, as well as in Dr. David Eide’s lab where he studied the cloning and characterization of zinc influx transport proteins (ZIPs). Alex was trained as a molecular biologist and yeast geneticist (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae).

“At Novartis we create innovative medicines and prioritize our work based on unmet medical need and strong scientific understanding of disease—not the size of the potential commercial market.

Novartis researchers are working to map complex protein signaling networks known as molecular signaling pathways inside of cells. These molecular pathways are highly controlled and interconnected signal-relay systems, similar to communication networks, and are responsible for normal cell function. When a protein in a pathway does not function properly, the result can be abnormal signaling and disease. Scientists at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) develop small molecule drugs or antibodies to target key nodes within pathways that, when defective, lead to disease.

To translate discoveries from the lab bench to the clinic, Novartis uses proof-of-concept clinical trails (small scale studies used to get an early read on drug’s safety and effectiveness) to help find and advance the most promising drug candidates. These proof-of-concept studies often focus on treating a rare, but genetically well defined disease.”