Natural products have long been regarded as ‘nature’s medicine chest’ providing a rich source of lead compounds as invaluable platforms for developing front-line drugs. Our research focuses on making and modifying naturally occurring bioactive compounds that have been isolated from plants, animal tissue, microbes or marine and soil organisms, which are rare or hard to isolate in abundance. These compounds provide rich and diverse chemical structures that challenge the synthetic chemist to develop new flexible synthetic methodology for their construction. The preparation of synthetic analogues of the natural compound may improve the biological activity and provide an understanding of the mechanism of action of the naturally occurring compound.
Our research group also comprises a national peptide, peptidomimetic and glycopeptide chemistry facility that occupies a world-class laboratory in the Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology. The peptide synthesis laboratory supports growth in the burgeoning area of peptide therapeutics that is growing at twice the rate of small molecule therapeutics by engaging with the local biotech community to develop viable drug candidates based on peptide leads. An example is the development of NNZ-2566 for Neuren Pharmaceuticals that is currently in Phase IIb clinical trials for traumatic brain injury and was successful in phase II clinical trials for Rett Syndrome and has been given the name trofinetide by the WHO.
Our laboratory has also been licensed by medsafe for the GMP manufacture of peptides for the clinical trial of melanoma vaccines (MELVAC trial). The synthesis of natural product peptides containing unnatural amino acids, depsipeptides, cyclic peptides and natural proteins that exhibit potent antimicrobial activity, is one theme in our peptide chemistry laboratory. Analogues of the natural peptides are then synthesised to either simplify or stabilise the molecule with the aim of producing a more potent analogue. The ability to combine contemporary organic reactions such as cross-metathesis, “peptide stapling”, click chemistry, thiol-ene chemistry and the preparation of unnatural amino-acid building blocks with modern solid phase synthesis methods provides a powerful peptidomimetic platform to combat the problem of increasing resistance to existing antibiotics. The peptide chemistry group also synthesizes peptide-based hydrogels with applications in bionanotechnology and regenerative medicine.
The following is a representative list of our research projects. Many of our research projects are not listed and we encourage you to contact us should you have further query.