David was born and grew up in South Africa. He obtained his PhD in the lab of Heini Dirr at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where he researched the folding and dynamics of glutathione transferases.
He then moved to Munich to join the group of F. Ulrich Hartl at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry. There, he studied the mechanisms of molecular chaperones, and showed how cellular factors can shape protein folding pathways.
His group at the Crick will reconstitute protein synthesis and folding networks, with the aim of understanding protein biogenesis at a molecular level.