Ferrier Public Lecture

The Ferrier Public Lecture is given at Victoria University of Wellington each year in honour of the late Professor Robin Ferrier.

About the Ferrier Public Lecture

It was Robin Ferrier’s particular belief that young chemists could benefit greatly from mixing with leaders in their field. Therefore, invited Ferrier Public Lecturers, who are recognised internationally in chemistry or a related field, are brought to Wellington to engage with postgraduate students as well as lecture.

The Ferrier Public Lecture is supported by private donors, including Dr Peppi Prasit (one of Robin’s former PhD students), as well as the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC) and the Wellington Faculty of Science at Victoria University of Wellington.

2024 Ferrier Public Lecture

The 2024  Ferrier Public Lecture, was given on 29 February by Professor Robert Field, director of the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Manchester.

His lecture Sugars, viruses, and teeth whitener: taking chemistry from the ivory tower to the real world, covered two distinct but linked studies that emanated from an ambition to make real-world impact through chemistry. The first study concerned medical diagnostics, and the second related to environmental challenges of harmful algal blooms.

See the recording of the lecture.

2023 Ferrier Public Lecture

The 2023  Ferrier Public Lecture, was given on 2 March by Professor David Vocadlo,Simon Fraser University (SFU),  Canada.

His lecture, The roles of carbohydrates in human health and disease: from fundamental research to clinical applications,  illustrated some the critical roles played by carbohydrates in both health and disease.  Dr Vocadlo discussed his team's advances in glycomic research, demonstrating how these advances help to create new therapeutics that may serve to slow or stop neurodegenerative diseases.

2021 Ferrier Public Lecture

The 2021 Ferrier Public Lecture, was given on 14 April by Professor Antony Fairbanks, University of Canterbury, Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha, Christchurch, New Zealand.

His lecture, Sugars and viruses: the roles that carbohydrates can play in both viral infection and immune evasion, was extremely topical and looked at the role sugars play in influenza and SARS-CoV-2 and how anti-virals and RNA vaccines have and are being developed to combat these diseases.

2019 Ferrier Public Lecture

The 2019 Ferrier Public Lecture was given on 21 November by Assistant Professor Chantelle Capicciotti, Queen’s National Scholar in Precision Molecular Medicine at Queen’s University, Canada.

Her lecture, The Sweet Side of Health and Disease: Harnessing Sugars to Treat Disease, looked at the challenges in understanding the biology of carbohydrates and their role in human health, and how chemistry is overcoming these hurdles to develop carbohydrate-based strategies for combatting disease.

2018 Ferrier Public Lecture

The 2018 Ferrier Public Lecture was given on 7 June by Professor Nicola Pohl, professor of chemistry and the Joan and Marvin Carmack Chair in Bioorganic Chemistry at the University of Indiana.

Her lecture, Next Wave Biotherapeutics: A Marriage of Sugars and Proteins, looked at the challenges in developing the next wave of biotherapeutics—modifying proteins with sugars—and discussed how these problems fit into the larger questions facing the field of chemistry today.

2017 Ferrier Public Lecture

The 2017 Ferrier Public Lecture was given on 7 December by Professor Ben Davis, Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University.

His lecture, The World is Made of Sugar and Dirt, looked at some of the ways we have used chemistry to ask some useful questions about sugars in biology. What do sugars do in Tuberculosis? How do bugs make their protective coats using sugars? Could sugars be used to make a cell from scratch?

2016 Ferrier Public Lecture—September

The second 2016 Ferrier Public Lecture was given on 23 September by Dr Kelly Chibale, professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and founding director of the UCT Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D).

His lecture, Pioneering drug discovery and development in Africa: Confronting Afro-pessimism and debunking the myth, described the journey through the founding of H3D in 2010 and representative projects, including a newly announced drug candidate developed with the Medicines for Malaria Venture and its’ potential to be part of the “one pill to cure Malaria”.

2016 Ferrier Public Lecture—March

The 2016 Ferrier Public Lecture was given on 15 March by Dr Peppi Prasit, founder of Inception Sciences, a small molecule drug discovery company with research sites in San Diego, Vancouver and Montreal.

His lecture, A new model for biotechnology—a journey through drug discovery and development, outlined the business model that Peppi has developed. Peppi has played a lead role in the discovery of several pharmaceutical drugs, and was the chief scientific officer at Amira Pharmaceuticals before establishing Inception Sciences.

2015 Ferrier Public Lecture

The 2015 Ferrier Public Lecture was given on 3 March by Professor Larry Overman from the University of California, Irvine.

His lecture, Natural Products Synthesis: Insights into Chemical Reactivity and Inspiration for New Antitumour Agents, described two recent natural products total synthesis projects in the Overman laboratory, one that led to new strategies for coupling complex molecular fragments and another to a new class of preclinical epigenetic antitumor agents.

2014 Ferrier Public Lecture

The 2014 Ferrier Public Lecture was given on 12 March by Professor Jef De Brabander from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

His lecture, Natural Products: Discoveries in Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry and Biology, described his unique drug development work aimed at the treatment of pneumonia and other life threatening infections. He also presented the results of studies related to an antibiotic (mangrolide A), isolated from a microbe found in mangrove swamps in The Bahamas.

2013 Ferrier Public Lecture

The inaugural Ferrier Public Lecture was given on 5 March by Professor Vern Schramm from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, New York. Despite failing health, Robin Ferrier was able to attend but sadly died later that year.

His lecture, Enzymatic Transition States and Drug Design, proposed that chemically stable mimics of individual enzymatic transition states, designed based on transition state theory, will be the most powerful inhibitors known. He explained how experimental isotope effects and computational methods are used to establish the nature of enzymatic transition states and to design transition state analogues.