Dr Steven Ogbourne

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Dr Steven Ogbourne


Research areas

  • biodiscovery
  • drug development
  • natural products chemistry
  • population genetics
  • conservation genetics
  • plant reproductive biology


Dr Steven Ogbourne is an experienced research scientist with a background in plant science, molecular biology and chemistry. Biodiscovery is his current research focus following his move into the field of drug discovery as a post-doctoral researcher at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and drug development & commercialisation as an employee of the pharmaceutical companies, Peplin and LEO Pharma and a more recently as a collaborator with EcoBiotics and QBiotics.

Dr Ogbourne’s research at QIMR resulted in the identification of the natural product ingenol mebutate, which showed significant anti-cancer activity. He subsequently worked for the Australian biotechnology company, Peplin, who owned the rights to the compound and was intimately involved in all aspects of the compounds development and commercialisation. Peplin was eventually sold to LEO Pharma, where Dr Ogbourne was also employed for several years. Ingenol mebutate has now been approved for use as a topical treatment for actinic keratosis around the world. Dr Ogbourne now works closely with the Australian companies EcoBiotics and QBiotics, assisting with their discovery, development and commercialisation pipelines.

Since joining USC, Dr Ogbourne’s research focusses on biodiscovery in collaboration with other members of the university’s GeneCology Research Centre. These projects span a range of therapeutic areas including cancer, wound-healing and inflammation.

Dr Ogbourne’s most significant current research project is a collaboration with EcoBiotics and focuses on the anti-cancer drug (EBC-46). EBC-46 is extracted and purified from Fontainea picrosperma, a native tropical rainforest tree found in Far North Queensland. The research will assist EcoBiotics with domesticating the species; an important milestone that will facilitate secure supply of raw material for manufacturing of EBC-46.

Dr Ogbourne also has a passion for conservation and his team is actively involved in several conservation projects relating to threatened species of plants and animals. For example, the research team is currently involved in conservation projects on Fontainea rostrata, Alectryon ramiflorus and Delma impar in collaboration with the Burnett Mary Regional Group and Bush Heritage Australia. This research utilises population genetics, habitat modelling and plant propagation and will provide substantial conservation outcomes as well as adding to our scientific understanding of the biology and ecology of these species.

Current research grants

Increasing yield and quality in tropical horticulture with better pollination, fruit retention and nutrient distribution. Horticulture Innovation Australia. 2017-2022.

Alternative Herbicides for Revegetation. Mary River Catchment Coordination Committee. 2017-2020.

Discovery and Development of Bioactive Natural Products isolated from Queensland’s Tropical Rainforests. CSIRO. 2017-2020.

Reducing the extinction risk of Alectryon ramiflorus. Burnett Mary Regional Group. 2016-2018.

Medicinally active compounds from stingless bee propolis. University of the Sunshine Coast. 2012-2017.

Domestication of Fontainea picrosperma. EcoBiotics. 2011-2018.

Highlighted publications

  • Lamont RW, Conroy GC, Reddell P and Ogbourne SM. Population genetic analysis of a medicinally significant Australian rainforest tree, Fontainea picrosperma C.T. White (Euphorbiaceae). BMC Plant Biology 16:57-69.

  • Ogbourne SM and Parsons PG. 2014. The value of nature's natural product library for the discovery of New Chemical Entities: The discovery of ingenol mebutate. Fitoterapia 98:36-44.

  • Cozzi SJ, Ogbourne SM, James C, Rebel HG, de Gruijl FR, Ferguson B, Gardner J, Lee TT, Larcher T, Suhrbier A. 2012 Ingenol Mebutate Field-Directed Treatment of UVB-Damaged Skin Reduces Lesion Formation and Removes Mutant p53 Patches. J. Invest. Derm. 132:1263-7.

  • Siller G, Gebauer K, Welburn P, Katsamas J, Ogbourne SM. 2009. PEP005 (ingenol mebutate) gel, a novel agent for the treatment of actinic keratosis: results of a randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled, phase IIa study. Australas. J. Dermatol. 50:16-22.

  • Ogbourne SM, Suhrbier A, Jones B, Cozzi SJ, Boyle GM, Morris M, McAlpine D, Johns J, Scott TM, Sutherland KP, Gardner JM, Le TT, Lenarczyk A, Aylward J, Parsons PG. 2004. Antitumour activity of 3-ingenyl angelate: Plasma membrane and mitochondrial disruption and necrotic cell death. Can. Res. 64:2833-2839.

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