Professor von Itzstein will step down from his role as Director of the Institute for Glycomics, one of Australia’s flagship interdisciplinary translational biomedical research institutes, at the end of 2023.
Griffith University’s Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Carolyn Evans, shared the news with the wider Griffith community earlier this week.
“Professor von Itzstein’s contribution to Griffith University cannot be understated,” VC Evans said.
“His long and remarkable tenure will mark over two decades of prodigious research and leadership contribution to Griffith University and to advancements in translational biomedical science.”
The founding Director of the Institute for Glycomics in 2000, Mark’s vision, expertise and leadership has seen the Institute achieve world first breakthroughs advancing research in the field of glycociences, chemical biology and medicinal chemistry.
Under his stewardship, the Institute has become a globally recognised centre for innovation, attracting top-tier talent, securing substantial funding, and producing ground-breaking discoveries that have transformative implications for human health.
Professor von Itzstein has established collaborative partnerships with industry leaders, fostering knowledge exchange and promoting commercialisation of research findings and mentored and inspired countless students and researchers, shaping the next generation of scientific leaders.
He has pioneered the development of antiviral and antibacterial drugs, revolutionising the treatment of influenza and other viral and bacterial diseases.
Professor von Itzstein led the team responsible for the design, synthesis and biological evaluation of the anti-influenza drug, Relenza®, which has been approved for the treatment of influenza worldwide since 1999.
More recently, under Professor von Itzstein’s role as Principal Research Leader at the Institute for Glycomics, his team of researchers has one drug candidate now in human Phase 1 clinical trials and another that is advancing in pre-clinical trials.
Throughout his tenure as Director of the Institute for Glycomics, Professor von Itzstein has published more than 340 high-impact research contributions that have advanced the understanding of glycobiology and its implications for various diseases.
He was elected as a Fellow of both the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Health & Medical Sciences and is a joint recipient of the prestigious Australia Prize (1996).
In recognition of his significant contributions to both society and medical research, Professor von Itzstein was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (General Division) in 2019 and has won numerous national and international awards during his career.
As a well-respected member of the Gold Coast community, he was recognised and named Gold Coast Citizen of the Year in 2020 and a street has been named after him within the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct.
Professor von Itzstein will continue to undertake research at Griffith University in the role of Distinguished Professor.
This will include leadership of the Griffith-based Australian node of the Fraunhofer International Consortium of Anti-infectives Research (iCAIR), a significant joint initiative between Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics and the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine in Hannover, Germany.
Professor von Itzstein is proud of the legacy he leaves, as he steps down as Director.
“Over two decades we have created a unique translational research institute, that has delivered a drug available to patients under the Therapeutic Goods Administration special access scheme and another drug and two vaccine candidates continuing in human clinical trials.
This outcome, in a relatively short space of time, is remarkable and demonstrates the talent that we have attracted to the Institute over this period of time,” Professor von Itzstein said.
“The Institute began with a handful of staff and has grown to over 200 staff and students.
“The Institute’s human fabric and physical infrastructure has created a research environment that is the envy of many national and international research centres.”
Professor von Itzstein reflected on the beginnings of the Institute and its outcomes: “I came to Griffith University in 2000 with the single focus of establishing a world-leading national centre of translational research excellence on the Gold Coast. There are very few people in the world that are given such an honour and challenge to establish a unique research institute,” he said.
“With the long-standing support of the various Queensland State Governments, the City of Gold Coast and the unshakable commitment of Griffith University, I believe that we have been successful, and I now look forward to the next chapter of this internationally recognised Institute under the next leadership.”