Griffith University will celebrate more than its Open Day this weekend. It will also mark 20 years since the world’s first anti-flu drug Relenza was discovered by a team headed by Professor Mark von Itzstein, now Director of Griffith’s Institute for Glycomics on the Gold Coast campus.
Relenza is considered one of Australia’s greatest medical discoveries and has saved lives around the world. The drug has been designed to cripple the flu virus so it cannot multiply and spread throughout the body.
Professor von Itzstein has a long and distinguished career of groundbreaking research in carbohydrate chemistry and biology.
In 2000 Professor von Itzstein established the Institute for Glycomics at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus. Here he leads research for novel drugs and vaccines to treat or prevent a wide-range of medical conditions such as cancer, infectious diseases, inflammation and immune disorders. The Institute for Glycomics is the only one of its kind in Australia and one of only six in the world.
In 1993, Professor von Itzstein co-authored the article, “Rational design of potent sialidase-based inhibitors of influenza virus replication” which was published in the high-impact medical science journal, Nature. This article announced to the world the discovery of the first designer drug and has been acclaimed worldwide for its contribution to medical science.
To mark the 20 year anniversary of Relenza, Professor von Itzstein will give a free public lecture The Silent and Invisible Terrorists; a celebration of the discovery of the Australian flu drug Relenza® during Open Day on Sunday 11 August at 1.30pm at the Gold Coast Campus.
The future of research
As new strains of influenza develop, and bring with them the threat of epidemics and pandemics, Relenza will continue to be at the forefront of saving lives around the world, but more work is required, says Professor von Itzstein.
“Australia has a fine reputation in biomedical research and there is no reason why, with appropriate funding, we could not continue to lead the way in major developments for vaccine and drug discovery,” he said.
The New Griffith Open Day lecture will provide visitors with the chance to hear for themselves from Professor von Itzstein, who will discuss the effect his drug discovery has had on the treatment and control of influenza globally. He will also address the future threat of infectious diseases, particularly viruses, and the research being undertaken at Griffith’s Institute for Glycomics to combat them.
The New Griffith Open Day 2013
The Lecture, being held at the new Griffith Health Centre (G40 5.60), will be just one of a range of Open Day activities at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus.
There will be more than 100 information sessions, activities and tours spanning all study areas, including 3D printing and robotics demonstrations, environment displays, film screenings, music performances and science shows. Griffith’s sporting partners, Titans and Suns players will be camped on the Griffith red couch for photos with fans.
The New Griffith Open Day, also being held at the Nathan and South Bank campuses, will run from 9 am – 2pm.