RSB public forum: big questions in biology: old drugs, new drugs and drug resistance

Date & time: 5.30–7pm 26 April 2017, AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
Location: Auditorium, China in the World building 188 188 Fellows Lane The Australian National University Canberra, ACT 2601
Speakers: Professor Stefan Bröer, Associate Professor Richard Callaghan, and Dr Denisse Leyton

In this discussion forum, three internationally recognised researchers will present their own research on different aspects of drug targets, drug-development and the development of drug resistance.

They will look at different diseases including infectious diseases, diabetes and cancer, discuss how new drug targets are discovered and how drugs can be used to fight disease and drug resistance.

Moderated by Dr Rod Lamberts, Deputy Director of the ANU Centre for the Public Awareness of Science

Researchers and their topics

Professor Stefan Bröer, ANU Research School of Biology

Obesity is now seen as a chronic disease and not a lifestyle choice. Despite many attempts to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes, their incidence is increasing in Australia and world-wide. For severe obese individuals gastric-bypass surgery is one of the most successful treatments, but most eligible individuals decline surgery. Prof. Stefan Broer will discuss his ideas how to develop drugs to treat type 2 diabetes and potentially could replace gastric-bypass surgery in the future.

Associate Professor Richard Callaghan, ANU Research School of Biology and ANU Medical School

Since the 1940s we have waged a chemical war against cancer. There have been many successes and some forms of cancer have become “treatable” with chemotherapy. Did we really think that cancer would simply raise the white flag of surrender? Cancer cells adapt very quickly to their local environment and have developed numerous strategies to overcome chemotherapy. Is the battle against cancer winnable or are we simply entering a never-ending arms race?

Dr Denisse Leyton, ANU Research School of Biology and ANU Medical School

The astonishing power of antibiotics to conquer formerly fatal bacterial infections earned them a reputation as the wonder drugs of modern medicine. However, their unbridled use to treat bacterial infectious, as prophylactic agents to prevent bacterial infections as well as their use in agriculture and animal husbandry, and in consumer goods such as toothpaste and hand soap has forced bacterial pathogens to fight back by developing resistance to antibiotics at an incredibly alarming pace. In a frightening irony, the increasing numbers of antibiotic-resistant infections has coincided with a collapse of the antibiotic research and development pipeline. This means that we are entering an era where infectious diseases could become a leading cause of death in the developed world, as they are in the developing world. But, can we win the war against antibiotic resistant bacteria or are we looking at an indefinite arms race?


Mel Norris