Primary research interest

Drug development and delivery

About me

I completed my PhD at The University of Queensland in 1996 and then embarked on a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore working with Prof. Craig Townsend on the discovery of new biosynthetic pathways to β lactam antibiotics. I then worked at the Australian National University with Prof. Lew Mander on the synthesis of novel Gibberellin structures and finally moved to the School of Pharmacy at UQ working with Prof. Istvan Toth on drug development and delivery research. I was appointed to the SCMB academic staff in 2003.

Research focus and collaborations

My research broadly concerns drug and vaccine development and delivery. I currently have a collaborative project with Prof. Paul Burn in which we are designing and synthesising synthetic vaccine constructs against Staphylococcus aureus, HIV and HPV. I am particularly interested in the development of new CNS active drugs and the delivery of these across the blood brain barrier. I have a long standing collaboration with Prof. Istvan Toth targeted at developing new peptide based naturopathic pain modulating drugs. My group also has an interest in natural products chemistry, particularly in isolation and examination of the bioactive compounds from herbal extracts. In addition to elucidating the structures of the components of these extracts we also determine which compounds are likely to be absorbed across the GI tract. We also have a collaborative project looking at the behaviour of natural bile pigments and assessing these as potential heath supplements. Much of our work is organic solution and solid phase chemistry but we also endeavour to conduct the preliminary biological examination of our compounds in our laboratory. We use cell culture techniques, in particular the Caco-2 cell line, to study permeability and stability and we conduct in vivo biodistribution assays in rats.

Funded projects

  • ARC Linkage Project 2014-2017
    Bioproduction and bioavailability of steroidal saponins, bioactives in herbal medicines
  • UQ Firstlink Scheme 2010-2011
    Assessing the oral bioavailability of components of hrebal exracs using Caco-2 cell monolayers
  • Physiological effects of Bile Pigment 2011-2013
    Funding from Science Fund of Austria
  • Rigid Antigen Presenting Scaffolds 
    Funding from UniQuest (Pathfinder grants)

Teaching interests

I teach chemical bonding and electron configuration to the large first year courses each year (CHEM1030) and I coordinate a new second year subject, Chemical Biology which highlights the interface between chemistry and biochemistry and the importance of a working knowledge of chemistry in biological research. I also teach into the third year organic synthesis course and into the honours courses for Organic chemistry students. I have also implemented new genuine research experience practicals into the first and second year chemistry curriculum. In addition to my School teaching responsibilities I have been the third year coordinator of the Advanced Study Program in Science for several years. This is a program for elite science students with an interest in research and endeavours to offer them challenging and rewarding research opportunities throughout their undergraduate degree.

Achievements and awards

  • Executive Dean’s Medal for Outstanding performance in undergraduate science education, 2007 with the Advanced Study in Science team
  • Assistant editor of Current Drug Delivery, Bentham Publishers
  • Member of the Royal Australian Chemical Society

Featured publications

Researcher biography

Drug development and delivery

Our group's work concerns the development of novel drug candidates, especially neuroactive drugs. We study chemical techniques to improve the delivery of drugs across the GI tract and the Blood Brain Barrier.