Professor Nicolle Packer has transformed our understanding of how cells interact. Her work on glycans, the sugars on the surface of every cell, has implications for how we treat infections, cancers, infertility and many other diseases.
Thirty years ago, glycans were largely overlooked because they were too difficult to study. Nicki’s research has changed all that. We now know that these molecules are the first point of contact and the first line of defence and attack for all interactions that occur between cells. She has shown that glycans play an integral role in many crucial cellular processes including cell growth and development, tumour growth and metastasis, blood coagulation, immune recognition and response, brain function, and cell-to-cell communication. Thanks to her work we can now develop new antibiotics and other drug candidates, identify new biomarkers and targets for molecular imaging, and develop new diagnostic tests.
Nicki has published 184 papers in peer-reviewed journals as well as written 22 book chapters and edited 3 books, and filed nine patents. Two of these inventions have been licensed and commercialised. Since her return to academia from industry in 2007, she has won $17 million competitive grant funding and $7.5 million infrastructure funding, supervised 16 postgraduate students, and mentored 21 postdoctoral fellows, all of whom now have jobs in research or industry.
She co-created a spin-out company (Proteome Systems Ltd), and has worked with Dairy Australia, L’Oreal France, Regeneus, Minomic International, and many other companies. Through her research Nicki has established Macquarie University as a leader in glycosciences in both science and business.