Williams Group

“Synthetic organic chemistry provides the ability to shape new molecules, one-atom-at-a-time, to create new molecular species endowed with novel functions. Using our skills in organic chemistry, and in particular carbohydrate chemistry, we create molecular probes that enable study of enzyme mechanism, microbial pathogenesis, and glycoimmunology.” - Spencer Williams.

Research

The Williams laboratory focuses on the design and synthesis of organic small molecules that we use to probe biological systems. Our research areas include: mechanism and inhibition of glycosidases, especially mannose-processing enzymes; pathogen-specific carbohydrate processing pathways in the human pathogens Leishmania spp. (Leishmaniasis), and Mycobacteria spp. (tuberculosis); total synthesis of immunogenic glycolipids to understanding their roles in innate immunity; and the development of small molecule therapeutics (medicinal chemistry). Our work is strongly collaborative and we have productive relationships with biochemists, cell biologists, structural biologists and immunologists.

Techniques

Modern organic synthetic methods, carbohydrate chemistry and enzyme kinetics.

Group Members

Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Assistants

Dr Phillip van der Peet
Dr Janice Chan

Graduate Students

PhD Students

Zalihe Hakki
Gaetano Speciale
Stephanie Bellmaine (joint with Prof M Pera)
Sayali Shah
Tyson Belz
Dylan Smith
Pearl Fernandes
Marija Petricevic
Satvika Burungupalli

Masters Students

Seep Arora
Meesha Shivadasani
Tram Nguyen
Xiaoji Bryce Chen

Biography

Associate Professor Spencer Williams obtained his BSc and PhD (under the supervision of Professor Bob Stick) at the University of Western Australia. Following receipt of his PhD in 1998, he was an Izaac Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Professor Stephen G Withers at the University of British Columbia, Canada, where he worked on glycosidase inhibitors. In 2000 he moved to the USA where he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation in the laboratory of Professor Carolyn Bertozzi. Spencer moved to Melbourne as a member of faculty in the School of Chemistry beginning July 2002. His current interests include the application of chemical synthesis, and in particular carbohydrate chemistry, to biological problems of relevance to human health and disease.
Spencer is the recipient of the Grimwade Prize for Industrial Chemistry; the Rennie Memorial Medal; and the David Syme Prize.
He has authored over 100 journal articles, and 10 patents, 6 book chapters, and a co-authored textbook, Carbohydrates: The essential molecules of life (by RV Stick and SJ Williams, 2009, Elsevier). He is a co-founder of Fibrotech Therapeutics (purchased by Shire in 2014) and OccuRx, and has worker closely with NeuProtect Pty Ltd, a Melbourne-based biotechnology company in the development of their lead compound NP202.
Associate Professor Spencer Williams is Associate Director of the Institute's Chemical Biology Research Theme.