Professor Richard Furneaux

Prof Richard Furneaux profile picture

Director Ferrier Research Institute

Research interests

Carbohydrate chemistry, drug discovery and development, synthetic organic chemistry, natural products chemistry.

Profile

Professor Richard Furneaux describes his 40 years leading a team of expert carbohydrate chemists that now numbers 27, as a social experiment.

“It’s based on the idea that people have different personalities and skills. Some want to be left alone to do science, while others have a real interest in the wider community. I encourage everyone to express their opinions—we discuss them and allow them to influence our leadership. We are constantly looking to be the best we can be.”

From his small, portable office, Furneaux Lodge, Richard makes himself available to the team and fosters the family feel that has become characteristic of its interactions.

“When we work together, we become much more than the sum of the parts. Excellence is achieved not by competition but by playing to each other’s strengths. We are socialist inside and capitalist outside.”

Richard travels regularly, believing in developing personal connections with clients and collaborators.

“Carbohydrates are our strong suit—we are experts in their chemistry and analysis—but we partner with people who can realise the social and economic benefits of our work. We need biologists for our drug discovery work, biotech companies to licence our IP and materials scientists for our industrial products.”

He also enjoys the academic challenge of learning about a client’s science, whether it is a surface coating, an unusual cancer or a new chemical process.

“I need to understand their business and their problems to help find a chemistry solution. Industry often brings us off-the-wall enquiries, but we tackle them because we have the resources within the team and the confidence to take them on.”

With the backing of Victoria University, Richard wants the Ferrier to be a role model for how to get high quality New Zealand science out to the public.

“Robin Ferrier himself was a pioneer in making carbohydrate chemistry mainstream. Our goal as a professional applied science team is to see our science and technology translated into everyday products and services in the international marketplace.”

Publications

View Richard's publications on Google Scholar.

Awards

  • 2013 Wellingtonian of the Year Award: Category winner, Science & Technology
  • 2012 Thompson Medal (Royal Society of New Zealand)
  • 2006 Hector Medal (Royal Society of New Zealand)
  • 2004 Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry
  • 2004 Nufarm Prize for Excellence in Industrial and Applied Chemistry
  • 1998 Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand
  • 1994 New Zealand Science and Technology Medal
  • 1990 Research Medal (New Zealand Association of Scientists)
  • 1981 Hamilton Memorial Prize (Royal Society of New Zealand)

Memberships