Institute for Glycomics Director appointed high honour of Officer of the Order of Australia

Professor Mark von Itzstein, Founder and Director of Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics, has been awarded one of Australia’s highest honours, officially being named as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia in the General Division.

This highly prestigious title, which took effect on 10 June 2019, was approved by the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), in his current capacity as Chancellor of the Order of Australia.

The Order of Australia, established in 1975 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, is the principal means of recognising outstanding members of the community at a national level.

“I am humbled by this honour and it belongs to a whole host of people who have made major contributions to both my career and life,” commented Professor Mark von Itzstein. “I particularly acknowledge the enormous support of Griffith University and our University’s Senior Executive as well as the Queensland State Government’swillingness to have a ‘can do’ attitude. Without it my vision of establishing a unique translational biomedicalresearch institute in Australia would never have happened.”

Professor von Itzstein has international standing in glycoscience, medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, particularly in the area of anti-infective drug discovery. He has established an internationally-recognised research program that is investigating the discovery of novel anti-microbial drugs, including novel anti-influenza drugs, anti-parainfluenza and anti-cancer drugs based on carbohydrate-related pathways and the outcomes of these programs are apparent from his publication record.

Professor von Itzstein’s contributions to the carbohydrate sciences and medicinal chemistry have been internationally recognised by continued conference invitations and requests to write significant chapters on carbohydrate science and drug discovery and act as a book editor/co-editor. He has published over 200 contributions, has over 5,000 total citations and continues to publish in some of the world’s highest quality journals.

“Professor Mark von Itzstein AO’s contribution to Griffith University, the Gold Coast community, and Australia as a whole, has been demonstrated time and time again within his many roles which include Founder, Director, Professor, inventor, research leader, mentor, and friend. This award is extremely well-deserved,” commented Professor Carolyn Evans, Vice Chancellor of Griffith University.

Professor von Itzstein AO is an internationally acclaimed research scientist, whose research led to the discovery of the world’s first ‘designer’ anti-influenza drug, Relenza®. This drug was designed, synthesised and biologically evaluated (in vitro) in Professor von Itzstein’s laboratory. This discovery is considered to be a most significant outcome and flagship in glycotherapeutic drug development in the last century and has consolidated the world platform of using carbohydrates and carbohydrate-recognising proteins as drug discovery targets. Relenza® is just one example of so many of his profound contributions to society. “We’re excited to see what he will achieve next,” added Professor Evans.

City of Gold Coast has also acknowledged von Itzstein’s outstanding life achievements by naming a street after him, befittingly located within the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct, Asia-Pacific’s emerging health and innovation hub and home to Griffith University, ranked in the top 2% of universities worldwide.