Drug synthesis researcher is Fulbright Scholar

Research into synthetic preparation of highly complex and rare natural medicines will take Flinders PhD student Matthew Norris to Princeton University, thanks to the award of the Fulbright Australian Alumni (WG Walker) Scholarship.

Mr Norris (pictured) is the 2013 winner of the scholarship, which is funded through donations by Fulbright Alumni and awarded to the highest ranked Postgraduate Scholar each year. The recipients were announced in Canberra last night.

Mr Norris will spend 12 months at Princeton continuing his research into synthesising rare natural products for use as new agents, medicines and vaccines to combat the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and cancerous cell-lines that pose global threats to human health.

“The need for new pharmaceutical agents has driven the chemical search to remote biological ecosystems with a rich diversity of organisms that have been found to produce a plethora of highly complex and unique organic (carbon-based) molecules,” Mr Norris said.

As the natural products are produced only in trace quantities, synthetic preparation is needed to enable further research and development in the pharmaceutical industry.

Mr Norris said the unusual architecture of many natural drug candidates is difficult to construct using established methods of synthetic chemistry.

“The motivation of my current research is to develop new methods of synthesis in which chemists can rapidly access highly complex structures in a cost-effective manner from simple, cheap starting materials.”

Mr Norris, who holds a Flinders BSc (Hons), has previously received several academic prizes, including the Royal Australian Chemical Institute SA Branch Prize.

He is one of 26 Australians to be recognised as a Fulbright Scholar this year. The largest educational scholarship of its kind, the program was created by US Senator William Fulbright and the US Government in 1946 and operates between the US and 155 countries. In Australia, the scholarships are funded by the Australian and US Governments and corporate partners.

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