Industrial Research Ltd
Area/discipline of scienceSynthetic Organic Chemistry/Drug Discovery/Vaccines and immune system related disease
- Postdoctoral Research at the University of Cambridge in the evaluation of PI3K signal transduction pathways
- Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Otago
- B.Sc. Hons (Chemistry) from the University of Otago
My work revolves around understanding how cell wall components from bacteria modulate immune responses. In order to do this we create selected targets in the lab from the cell wall then assess their biological activity. We are interested in understanding how different compounds provoke different immune responses.
A typical day at work involves setting up chemical reactions to prepare target compounds. The target compounds can take many weeks or even months to synthesise. We use a variety of instruments or techniques including Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Mass Spectrometry and High Pressure Liquid Chromatography. Once the target has been synthesised and its structure determined we pass it on to our collaborators for biological testing.
We are particularly interested in the interactions that take place between our synthesised target compound and structures on the cell surface called receptors. These interactions determine the immune responses produced in various models. In one example with researchers based at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and the University of Auckland, we are using a synthetic glycolipid to enhance the immune response of a developmental cancer vaccine for the treatment of melanoma. The vaccine will be tested in humans in 2012. To have the opportunity to save or extend life is the ultimate goal of our research so this is an extremely exciting time.
The most difficult thing about working in science, and especially drug discovery, is keeping a sense of perspective regarding how long it takes to get a compound in humans let alone to market. In these changing financial times there are external pressures to commercialise science and get products quickly.
In order to fully utilise the commercial returns of our science we will need to keep and further develop our science discoveries here in NZ. In doing this we will create new industries that offer new jobs to younger researchers who are interested in the science-business interface and translational research.