Drugs and diagnostics for superbugs, viruses and cancer

Stopping the inappropriate use of antibiotics, which leads to resistance to antibiotics, by developing a diagnostic tool to identify infection.


Since the 1940s, scientists have been fighting to protect us from bacterial strains that continue to evolve.

And we’re starting to lose the fight. Bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics, our weapons against them, forcing us to find new ways to protect ourselves.

The development of antibiotics has not kept up with the rate that resistance is developing. Some bacterial strains have become so advanced that we have no way to fight them.

They’re called Superbugs, and they’re taking lives.

Bacterial infections kill more than 9000 Australians each year, and an estimated 700,000 worldwide.

Without intervention, these numbers are set to increase exponentially. In fact, if a highly contagious strain of bacteria were to become resistant to antibiotics there would be a frightening epidemic.

We would be plunged back into a pre-antibiotic era.

Professor Matt Cooper discusses a recent Nature Communications paper


Group leader

Prof Matt Cooper

Professor Matt Cooper

Group Leader, Drugs and diagnostics for superbugs, viruses and cancer

Group Leader, Chemistry & Structural Biology Division

Director, Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery

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  UQ Researcher Profile

Our approach

We have a major effort on rational design and development of novel antibiotics active against drug-resistant pathogens, in particular those responsible for hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA and NDM-1 bacteria.

We have a strong translational research focus in all of our project areas and work on those indications in which there is a clear commercial case and market need for innovative and disruptive solutions. 

Many of the research team have significant experience in both academia and industry, with past projects leading to products on the market today. We collaborate with government agencies and companies locally in Australia and internationally in the US, UK, and Europe.


Aims to achieve

We aim to:

  1. Stop the inappropriate use of antibiotics, which leads to resistance to antibiotics, by developing a diagnostic tool to identify infection. The doctor can then give the right drug, the first time, in time. 
  2. Rediscover and optimising antibiotics that were discovered in the past but not developed into drugs.
  3. Crowdsource compounds from across the globe to uncover molecules with antimicrobial properties for the development of new antibiotics, through the Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery (CO-ADD).

Research areas

Diseases of Ageing

Into the future

Our team

Group Leader


Research Assistants


Research excellence

$1.3 billion+ commercial investment attracted to IMB research
1454 international collaborators
385 original publications in 2020
$28M in research funding last calendar year
20%+ of patent families at UQ are derived from IMB research
100% of donations go to the cause

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  • In an Australian-first, UQ researchers will join forces with the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) to tackle the growing problem of drug-resistant infections.
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  • In the “golden era” of antibiotic drug discovery – 1950 to 1970 – drug companies could afford to be choosy, selecting only the very best candidates for approval.As a result, many potent antibiotics did not make the cut for development and were abandoned. Given the current crisis in antibiotic discovery, the time is right to revisit many of these potentially invaluable molecules in search of antibiotic scaffolds with novel modes of action.


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