Our aim is to develop therapies to treat acquired brain injury and spinal cord injury

The Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research was established in 2016 at Griffith University. Based at the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, our laboratories are equipped to allow cutting-edge research ranging from high-throughput drug screening to complex three-dimensional assays.

The work of the Centre is made possible with funding from the Clem Jones Foundation and the Queensland Government. The Clem Jones Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Clem Jones Group. The trustees are dedicated to benefiting the community through ongoing commitments to the wishes and philosophies of the late Dr Clem Jones AO.

Researcher spotlights


Associate Professor James St John heads up the Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research within GRIDD. He has a joint appointment with GRIDD and the Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ).

Associate Professor St John holds a PhD, BAgrSc (Hons), and BLitt (International Development) and is an associate member of the Institute for Glycomics, where he collaborates with researchers to determine how bacteria can penetrate the brain and spinal cord via entry from the nasal cavity. He has previously held positions as an NHMRC post-doctoral fellow at the University of Melbourne and University of Queensland, and in 2007 he became Senior Research Fellow and Group Leader of Olfactory Ensheathing Cell Biology within the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research at Griffith University.

Combining advanced cell purification techniques with natural product drug discovery and engineering, his team design three-dimensional nerve bridges that will help regenerate the brain and spinal cord. With a focus on developing a therapy to repair the injured spinal cord, a Phase I/IIa clinical trial is planned to commence in a few years with the support of the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation and the Queensland Government.


The 2017 Australian of the Year Professor Emeritus Alan Mackay-Sim is a neuroscientist and stem cell scientist. He graduated with a PhD from Macquarie University in 1980 and worked at the University of Sydney, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wyoming and the University of Adelaide before taking up a position at Griffith University in 1987. In 2015 he retired and was appointed Emeritus Professor. His research has encompassed the human sense of smell and how the olfactory sensory neurons in the nose regenerate throughout life. He identified the olfactory stem cell in the nose that is responsible for the regeneration of the sense of smell. He uses these adult stem cells and other olfactory cells from the nose for therapeutic purposes.

Professor Emeritus Mackay-Sim is a world leader in spinal cord injury research using nasal olfactory cells. He led a team from Brisbane in a world-first clinical trial in which the patient’s own olfactory cells were transplanted into their injured spinal cord in the first stages of a therapy to treat human paraplegia. He established the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research in 2006 and built an adult stem cell bank with cells from more than 300 people with different neurological conditions including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, mitochondrial mutation disorders, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, ataxia telangiectasia and motor neuron disease. These stem cells are used to identify the biological bases of neurological diseases using genomics, proteomics and cell function assays and this work is leading to new drug therapies.

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