Taking medical research to new heights

Taking medical research to new heights

Illuminate newsletter index page, Autumn 2021
March 2021


Associate Professor Ethan Goddard-Borger.

An interest in science and love of technology lured Associate Professor Ethan Goddard-Borger into medical research.

After his hopes of becoming a pilot were dashed due to his towering height – pilots cannot be taller than 185cm and Goddard-Borger is 200cm – he decided that if he wasn’t able to fly planes, he would work on them.

He started out doing a degree in science and engineering but soon discovered he loved the science more than the engineering, eventually pursuing an honours degree and PhD in chemistry.

Now a laboratory head in WEHI’s Chemical Biology division, he is leading efforts to translate his research into new therapeutics.

Studying the body’s ‘dark matter’

Associate Professor Goddard-Borger and his lab recently described new tools and methods to study a poorly understood protein modification, called glycosylation, and understand the role it plays in health and disease.

“It’s a scenario that is akin to studying the ‘dark matter’ of the universe – we know that all of this protein glycosylation exists in the body, but we don’t fully appreciate the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of its existence,” he said.

Associate Professor Goddard-Borger said WEHI’s collaborative environment helped to drive new patient treatments. “We are currently working with industry partners on translating our discoveries to develop antibody-based drugs for respiratory diseases like cystic fibrosis and emphysema,” he said.

“All of us, at some point in our lives, are touched by illness. The possibility that my work might someday relieve someone’s suffering is a powerful motivator.”

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