Professor Rob Capon

Professorial Research Fellow

Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Affiliate Prof Research Fellow

Queensland Brain Institute

Affiliated Professor

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Faculty of Science
r.capon@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 62979
+61 7 334 62372

Overview

My research group specializes in the detection, isolation, identification and evaluation of biologically active small molecules from Nature (natural products). We acquire valuable knowledge on how and why natural products are made, and apply this knowledge to better understand living systems, and solve important scientific and societal challenges.

To achieve these goals we have established specialist capabilities that extend across;

Microbiology – the isolation, characterization and cultivation of bacterial and fungal strains.

Chemistry – the extraction and fractionation of natural extracts, the purification, chemical and spectroscopic characterization, and structure elucidation of natural products, and the use of synthetic and medicinal chemistry to explore bioactive scaffolds.

Biology – to evaluate extracts and natural products against an array of bioassays, leading to new human pharmaceuticals that target such indications as infectious and neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, pain and epilepsy, as well as new animal health products and new crop protection agents.

Research Interests

  • Marine Biodiscovery
    MARINE BIODISCOVERY can be defined as the chemical exploration of marine biodiversity, to detect, isolate, characterize, identify and evaluate structurally diverse natural products. Over the last three decades my research group has established itself as a leader in the field of marine biodiscovery. To support our research we have assembled a library of Australian marine invertebrate and algae samples (~2,800), collected by hand from intertidal (0-2 m) and coastal waters (2-30 m), and by off-shore trawling (>50 m), across southern Australia to Antarctica. We have designed and implemented many innovative marine biodiscovery protocols, including a fractionated (enriched) extract library formatted in 96 well plates for rapid screening, UPLC-DAD tagging of >50,000 metabolites in this library (the majority new to science), and a raft of streamlined isolation, purification and structure elucidation protocols. In addition to isolating and identifying several thousand marine metabolites, we routinely undertakes chemical syntheses of high priority metabolites, to both support structure assignments, and advance our efforts in pharmaceutical and agrochemical biodiscovery.
  • Microbial Biodiscovery
    MICROBIAL BIODISCOVERY can be defined as the chemical exploration of bacterial and fungal biodiversity, to detect, isolate, characterize, identify and evaluate structurally diverse natural products. Over the last 15 years my research group has established itself as a leader in the field of microbial biodiscovery. To support our research we have assembled a network of UQ, Australian and international collaborators, have acquired microbial diversity libraries, and have implemented an array of innovative high throughput (HTP) microbial cultivation and chemical profiling methodologies. In addition to isolating novel microbial natural products, many featuring complex and unique molecular structures, our research extends to the chemical synthesis and an exploration of the biosynthesis of high priority scaffolds, and the use of chemical ecology to activate silent biosynthetic gene clusters.
  • Chemical Ecology
    CHEMICAL ECOLOGY can be defined as the chemical exploration of natural molecules (natural products) that influence behavior within or between species, genera, phylla or even Kingdoms. Chemical ecology plays out within and between many living organisms, including microbes, plants, insects and animals. Our research seeks to explore and understand the ecological role of natural products, to gain knowledge, to develop protocols and tools, to enhance our efforts in microbial, pharmaceutical and agrochemical biodiscovery. For example, we study chemical ecology as it plays out between microbes, as well as between microbes and plants, microbes and animals, and microbes and insects, and the toxic chemicals used by both plants and animals to enhance survival. One particularly successful practical illustration is our investigation into the chemical ecology of the poisonous invasive pest species, the cane toad. This study led to the discovery, patenting, publishing and commercial development of an innovative pheromonal control solution whereby cane toad tadpoles are selectively attracted by a natural pheromonal bait into traps.
  • Pharmaceutical Biodiscovery
    PHARMACEUTICAL BIODISCOVERY can be defined as the search for bioactive natural products that inform the development of new human therapeutics (drugs), to improve and replace those that have become less effective, and to bring to the community safe and effective treatments for an ever-wider array of diseases. For example, our pharmaceutical biodiscovery research seeks to deliver new natural product inspired treatments for neurodegenerative and infectious diseases, including multi drug resistant pathogens (i.e. tuberculosis, VRE), as well as cancer, chronic inflammatory pain, anxiety and epilepsy.
  • Agrochemical Biodiscovery
    AGROCHEMICAL BIODISCOVERY can be defined as the search for bioactive natural products that inform the development of new animal health and/or crop protection products, to improve and replace those that have become less effective, and support the treatment of a wide array of commercially significant animal/crop diseases. For example, our agrochemical biodiscovery research seeks to deliver new natural product inspired anthelmintics to treat gastrointestinal infections (worms) in livestock, as well as new anti-infective solutions for controlling plant pathogens.

Research Impacts

With over 35 years experience in biodiscovery science, my research has lead to the study of several thousand natural products, many rare or new to science, and many with valuable chemical and biological properties. Over the last decade my research group has made numerous discoveries across basic and applied natural products science, leading to multiple high impact publications and several patents. I am recognised internationally as an expert in organic, natural products, analytical, synthetic and medicinal chemistry, and chemical ecology, and have a reputation for entering into and delivering on strategic collaborations.

My research activities are currently organised around five thematic programs;

Marine Biodiscovery: Documenting, evaluating and exploiting the chemical and biological properties of natural products from Australian marine invertebrates and algae.

Microbial Biodiscovery: Documenting, evaluating and exploiting the chemical and biological properties of natural products from Australian marine and terrestrial, bacteria and fungi.

Chemical Ecology: Documenting, evaluating and exploiting natural chemical interactions between members of either the same, or different species – extending across and between microbes, plants and animals.

Pharmaceutical Biodiscovery: Applying knowledge of natural products to inspire the development of new pharmaceuticals, to treat indications such infectious and neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and pain.

Agrochemical Biodiscovery: Applying knowledge of natural products to inspire the development of agrochemicals, to enhance the health and productivity of livestock and crops.

Qualifications

  • PhD, The University of Western Australia
  • BSc (Hons), The University of Western Australia

Publications

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Grants

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Supervision

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Publications

Featured Publications

Book Chapter

  • Capon, Robert J. (2012). Biologically active natural products from Australian marine organisms. In Corrado Tringali (Ed.), Bioactive compounds from natural sources 2nd. ed. (pp. 579-602) London, United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis. doi:10.1201/b11196-18

  • Blunt, B. W., Capon, R. J., Clark, B. J. and Munro, M. H. G. (2009). Natural products and pharmacognosy research in Australia. In G. M. Cragg (Ed.), The American Society of Pharmacognosy: 50 years of progress in natural products First ed. (pp. 148-150) Madison, WI, U.S.A.: The American Society of Pharmacognosy.

  • Hayes, R. A., Barrett, A., Alewood, P. F., Grigg, G. C. and Capon, R. J. (2008). Use of Chemical Ecology for control of the cane toad. In Hurst, J. L., Beynon, R. J., Roberts, S. C. and Wyatt, T. D. (Ed.), Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 11 (pp. 409-417) University of Chester, United Kingdom: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-73945-8_39

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Lynch, J., Talwar, S., Xiao, X., Balansa, W., Islam, R., Fontaine, F., Piggott, A., Zhang, H., Webb, T., Gilbert, D., Vaughan, C. and Capon, R. (2015). New small molecule analgesics that target the ALPHA3 glycine receptor. In: Special Issue: 25th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for Neurochemistry Jointly with the 13th Meeting of the Asian Pacific Society for Neurochemistry in Conjunction with the 35th Meeting of the Australasian Neuroscience Society. 25th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for Neurochemistry Jointly with the 13th Meeting of the Asian Pacific Society for Neurochemistry in Conjunction with the 35th Meeting of the Australasian Neuroscience Society, Cairns, QLD Australia, (18-18). 23-27 August 2015. doi:10.1111/jnc.13185

  • Islam, R., Xiao, X., Capon, R. and Lynch, J. (2015). Synthesising and characterising new ivermectin analogues targeting ligand-gated chloride channels. In: Special Issue: 25th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for Neurochemistry Jointly with the 13th Meeting of the Asian Pacific Society for Neurochemistry in Conjunction with the 35th Meeting of the Australasian Neuroscience Society. 25th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for Neurochemistry Jointly with the 13th Meeting of the Asian Pacific Society for Neurochemistry in Conjunction with the 35th Meeting of the Australasian Neuroscience Society, Cairns, QLD Australia, (158-158). 23-27 August 2015. doi:10.1111/jnc.13188

  • Shang, Z., Salim, A. A., Khalil, Z. G., Quezada, M., Bernhardt, P. V. and Capon, R. J. (2015). Viridicatumtoxins: Exploring structural diversity and antibiotic properties. In: Annual Meeting of the American-Society-of-Pharmacognosy, Copper Mountain, CO, United States, (908-909). 25-29 July 2015. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1556338

  • Ferguson, B. J., Lin, Y. -H., Reid, D. E., Hayashi, S., Lin, M. -H., Zhang, H., Capon, R. and Gresshoff, P. M. (2010). Identifying novel factors required for legume nodule development and autoregulation.. In: OzBio2010 symposium abstracts. OzBio2010 combined conference, Melbourne, Australia, (43-43). 26 September - 1 October 2010.

  • Gresshoff, P. M., Indrasumunar, A., Miyahara, A., Nontachaiyapoom, S., Biswas, B., Lin, Y-H., Lin, M-H, Reid, D., Callahan, D., Capon, R., Zhang, H., Jiang, Q., Hirani, T., Kobe, B., Men, A., Scott, P., Kereszt, A., Miyagi, M., Li, D., Chan, P-K., Roessner, U., Djordjevic, M. A., Kinkema, M. and Ferguson, B. (2009). Functional genomic analysis of systemic cell division regulation in legumes. In: Q. Y. Shu, Induced Plant Mutations in the Genomics Era: Proceedings of an International Joint FAO/IAEA Symposium, 2008. International Symposium on Induced Mutations in Plants, Vienna, Austria, (399-402). 2–15 August 2008.

  • Capon, R. J. (2008). Australian marine biodiscovery. In: Planta Medica. 7th Joint Meeting of the Association-Francophone-pour-l'Enselgnement-et-la-Recherche-en-Pharmacognosie/American-Society-of-Pharmacognosy/Society-for-Medicinal-Plant-Research/Phytochem-Society-of-Europe/Societa-Italiana-di-Fitochimica, Athens Greece, (930-931). Aug 03-08, 2008.

  • Capon, R. J. and Fontaine, F. (2008). Bioassays in biodiscovery. In: Planta Medica. 7th Joint Meeting of the Association-Francophone-pour-l'Enselgnement-et-la-Recherche-en-Pharmacognosie/American-Society-of-Pharmacognosy/Society-for-Medicinal-Plant-Research/Phytochem-Society-of-Europe/Societa-Italiana-di-Fitochimica, Athens Greece, (944-944). Aug 03-08, 2008.

  • Capon, R. J., Hayes, R. A., Hagman, M. and Shine, R. (2008). Cane toad chemical ecology: controlling an invasive pest. In: Planta Medica. 7th Joint Meeting of the Association-Francophone-pour-l'Enselgnement-et-la-Recherche-en-Pharmacognosie/American-Society-of-Pharmacognosy/Society-for-Medicinal-Plant-Research/Phytochem-Society-of-Europe/Societa-Italiana-di-Fitochimica, Athens Greece, (1134-1134). Aug 03-08, 2008.

  • Capon, R. J. and Ritesh, R. (2008). Metabolites from Australian marine microbes. In: Planta Medica. 7th Joint Meeting of the Association-Francophone-pour-l'Enselgnement-et-la-Recherche-en-Pharmacognosie/American-Society-of-Pharmacognosy/Society-for-Medicinal-Plant-Research/Phytochem-Society-of-Europe/Societa-Italiana-di-Fitochimica, Athens Greece, (1036-1036). Aug 03-08, 2008.

  • Capon, R. J., El-Naggar, M. and Zhang, H. (2008). Novel cytotoxic heterocycles from southern Australian marine sponges. In: Planta Medica. 7th Joint Meeting of the Association-Francophone-pour-l'Enselgnement-et-la-Recherche-en-Pharmacognosie/American-Society-of-Pharmacognosy/Society-for-Medicinal-Plant-Research/Phytochem-Society-of-Europe/Societa-Italiana-di-Fitochimica, Athens Greece, (1036-1037). Aug 03-08, 2008.

  • Clark, B. R., Tennant, S., Gill, J. H., Lacey, E., Capon, R. J. and Murphy, C. D. (2008). Pyrrolylpolyenes from fungi: biosynthesis and analogue production. In: Planta Medica. 7th Joint Meeting of the Association-Francophone-pour-l'Enselgnement-et-la-Recherche-en-Pharmacognosie/American-Society-of-Pharmacognosy/Society-for-Medicinal-Plant-Research/Phytochem-Society-of-Europe/Societa-Italiana-di-Fitochimica, Athens Greece, (924-925). Aug 03-08, 2008.

  • Hayes, R. Andrew, Barrett, Alexis, Alewood, Paul F., Grigg, Gordon C. and Capon, Robert J. (2008). Use of chemical ecology for control of the cane toad?. In: Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 11. 11th International Symposium on Chemical Signals in Vertebrates, Chester England, (409-417). Jul 25-28, 2006. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-73945-8_39

  • Capon, Robert, Hayes, R. A. and Grigg, G. C. (2006). Cane Toad Chemical Ecology: Getting to Know Your Enemy. In: Kerryn Molloy and Wendy Henderson, Science of Cane Toad Invasion and Control: Session 6: Toxins, Attractants and Repellants. Science of Cane Toad Invasion and Control.. Invasive Animals CRC/CSIRO/Qld NRM&W Cane Toad Workshop, Brisbane, (171-175). 5-6 June 2006.

  • Calanasan, CA, Capon, RJ, Gaul, KL, Klingenberg, M, Macleod, JK, Moeller, Pdr and Oelrichs, PB (1994). Toxic Analogues of Wedeloside and Carboxyatractyloside From Australian Plant Species. In: Plant-Association Toxins. 4th International Symposium on Poisonous Plants (ISOPP4), Fremantle Australia, (238-244). Sep 26-Oct 01, 1993.

  • Ratajczak, T, Sheppard, PN, Capon, RJ and Hahnel, R (1980). Interaction of Affinity Labels with Uterine Estrogen-Receptor. In: European Journal of Cell Biology. , , (70-70). .

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision