Molecular Biodiscovery: learning from nature

Gatekeepers to the chemical diversity of the natural world

The chemical diversity of the natural world is a seemingly endless source of molecules with incredible utility.

Within the many plants, animals, and microbes that make up the living species on our planet, the solutions to the world’s many challenges await discovery.

Most drugs, as well as crop protection and animal health therapies, have originated in nature.

The Capon Group is the gatekeeper to this chemistry, making it available to those seeking to solve all manner of problems.

The Capon Group specialises in the detection, isolation, identification and evaluation of biologically active small molecules from nature. They are also experts in applying them to a biological purpose.

Research overview

“Our goal is to acquire knowledge of the chemical and biological properties of natural products to inspire innovative solutions to important scientific and societal problems,” said Group Leader Rob Capon.

“We are experts at going out into the natural world to find things that are useful. Then we insist on figuring out what we can do with them.”

There are four main steps to the Capon Group’s methodology.

Firstly, they uncover interesting molecules and examine their chemistry to determine what the chemistry is and what it does.

Secondly, they match that capability with a biological purpose such as human health, animal health, crop protection, and chemical ecology.

Thirdly, they assess the chemistry for its value in acting on a biological target.

Finally, they demonstrate the benefits the molecule might have in solving a problem.

The Capon Group has constructed a vast library of molecules. Along with the Australian Collection of Microbes, also housed at IMB, these libraries provide access to a huge number of molecules to assess for utility against a given problem.

“There is enormous untapped potential, and the scientific tools are better today than they have ever been in history.

"The time is right to find the next 100 years worth of drugs.”

Research projects

Coming soon.

Research training opportunities

Research title: Biodiscovery: from biodiversity and biology, to bioactives and beyond

Summary of research interests: My research group focuses on the discovery and use of novel bioactive natural products from Australian marine and terrestrial biodiversity. These metabolites span all known biosynthetic classes and include many molecules that are new to science. Our research makes use of a range of sophisticated chemical technologies, and extends into the fields of microbiology, cell biology, pharmacology and biochemistry, supported by an extensive network of collaborators. Natural products uncovered during our investigations represent valuable new leads in the search for drugs in the fields of human and animal health and crop protection. They also have potential application as molecular probes to better interrogate, understand and manage living systems.

Traineeships, honours and PhD projects include

  • Marine biodiscovery
  • Microbial biodiscovery
  • Drug discovery: infectious diseases, cancer and pain
  • Synthetic and medicinal chemistry
  • Cane toad chemical ecology.

Contact: Professor Robert Capon

+61 7 3346 2979

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Research Training

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Engagement and impact

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Partners and collaborators

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Prof Rob Capon

Professor Rob Capon

Postgraduate Coordinator
Group Leader, Chemistry and Structural Biology Division
Investigator, Centre for Pain Research

  +61 7 3346 2979
  IMB Researcher Profile
  Centre for Pain Research
  Cane Toad Challenge

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  Group Leader

  • Professor Rob Capon

    Group Leader, Chemistry and Structural Biology Division
    Professorial Research Fellow - GL
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience