The 2013 Beckman Coulter Discovery Science Award: Glenn King

Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland

Glenn KingGlenn King is a pioneer in the field of venoms-based drug discovery, in particular the development of insecticides and therapeutics from spider venoms. His work has been instrumental in unravelling the extraordinary complexity of spider venoms, the roles played by different classes of toxins in immobilisation of arthropod prey, and the mechanism by which spiders evolved complex repertoires of peptide toxins. His research has repudiated the longstanding dogma that venom peptides are unlikely to be useful pharmaceuticals or insecticides because they are unstable and incapable of penetrating the gut epithelium.

Glenn completed his PhD under the mentorship of Professor Philip Kuchel FAA at the University of Sydney. He was then an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellow at the University of Oxford. After academic stints at the University of Sydney and the University of Connecticut, he joined the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, in 2007. He is currently an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow.

Glenn’s research on insecticidal spider-venom peptides (SVPs) led to his founding of Vestaron Corporation, an agricultural biotechnology company focused on development of eco-friendly insecticides. Vestaron recently applied to the EPA for registration of its first bioinsecticide, with a view to its first product release in 2014. The discovery in his lab of orally-active SVPs led to an ARC Linkage Grant with local agrochemical company Barmac, with the aim of progressing these peptides into field trials. Glenn has also partnered with the Australian Grains Research & Development Corporation to develop novel bioinsecticides for the control of Australian crop pests. Over the past five years, Glenn has turned his attention to the development of novel analgesics based on disulfide-rich ion channel modulators from animal venoms. Several molecules discovered in his lab have already progressed to preclinical studies in rodents. His collaboration in this area with Johnson & Johnson was recently named by FierceBiotech as a top pharma-academic alliance in 2012.

Glenn has engaged strongly with the media as he believes that it is imperative for scientists to explain to the public as transparently and candidly as possible the technological and ethical ramifications of their research. In particular, Glenn is keenly involved in promoting science to young students, making regular appearances on children’s TV shows such as Totally Wild, Scope and Bushwhacked.