$11 mil. sweetener for QLD drug discovery centre

Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor has welcomed funding of $11 million for the Institute for Glycomics.

The Queensland Government funding announced by Premier Peter Beattie, to be matched by the University, would see plans on the drawing board this year for a major $22 million expansion of the institute — the only dedicated multidisciplinary facility of its kind in Australia researching carbohydrates as potential drug discovery agents.

A centerpiece of the expansion would be a new purpose-built facility at the campus, but also an international recruitment effort for another 100 research staff.

“We are expanding Australia ‘s glycomics research under the directorship of Australia Prize winner, Federation Fellow and our very own Griffith graduate Professor Mark von Itzstein,” Professor O’Connor said.

“Professor von Itzstein has assembled a talented group of scientists who are on a quest to help find solutions to diseases such as cancer, arthritis and brain disorders, as well as infectious diseases such as tuberculosis.

“It is imperative we continue the research effort in this specialised and promising area of science and I thank the Queensland Government for sharing Griffith ‘s vision.”

Professor von Itzstein said this significant and most welcomed investment towards the expansion of the institute would lead to the greatest concentration of multidisciplinary glycomics researchers in the world under one-roof.

“Carbohydrates have been shown to play key roles in a host of clinically important diseases such as cancers that spread around the body through to infections that are caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites,” Professor von Itzstein said. “For example influenza virus engages carbohydrates to commence infection and a number of aggressive cancers mask themselves with carbohydrates to escape capture by our immune system.”

Professor von Itzstein said the development of “plugs” that stop these carbohydrate-related pathways could lead to new generation drugs and provide answers to many deadly diseases.


– The term glycomics comes from glyco — meaning sugar. Glycomics is the study of applied biology and chemistry of the structure and function of carbohydrates (or sugars).

– Griffith University established the Institute for Glycomics in 2000, headed by Australia Prize winner, Federation Fellow and Griffith alumnus Professor Mark von Itzstein.

– The Griffith Institute for Glycomics is the only one of its kind in Australia and one of only six such research centres worldwide.