Dr Geoff Isbister
(Senior Staff Specialist, Clinical Toxicology )

DepartmentClinical Pharmacology and Toxicology
Research AreasDiagnostics / Screening, Therapy and Treatment, Supportive Care
Research TopicsSide Effects / Adverse Reactions / Poisoning, Envenomation, Acute Behavioural Disturbance, Drug Overdose
Research TypesClinical Trials, Laboratory Research, Survey / Observational Research

Dr Geoff Isbister has been conducting clinical and laboratory research in the Department of Clinical Toxicology and Pharmacology at Calvary Mater Newcastle since 2000. His research focuses on multicentre studies of treatments for clinical toxicology patients, including antivenoms and decontamination. He uniquely combines laboratory research with clinical research, including large multicentre randomised controlled trials and has been awarded over $10 million NHMRC funding in the last 8 years.

Much of his research challenges long held views about the treatment of toxicology patients. It has made clinicians re-look at what evidence there is for treatments and why we use them. This approach, although often seen as controversial, has contributed significantly to the re-examination of treatments such as antivenom.

More information about Dr Isbister's academic achievements may be found here:



Getting to know you

When did you start doing research?


What research projects are you currently working on?

  • DORM ? sedation of agitated patients in the Emergency Department.
  • ASP ? the Australian snakebite project.
  • RAVE ? the redback spider antivenom evaluation project.
  • Multiple studies of snake envenoming in Sri Lankan hospitals, including study the safety and effectiveness of antivenom and fresh frozen plasma.
  • The pharmacokinetics of drug overdose and the benefits of antidotes and decontamination for the treatment of poisoned patients.
  • Paracetamol overdose ? a new dosing protocol for N-acetylcysteine (antidote for paracetamol).

What research achievement are you most proud of?

  • Debunking the myth of the white-tail spider.
  • Establishing the Australian snakebite project which recruits every snake envenoming case from around Australia.
  • Redefining the dose of antivenom for snake bite in Australia.
  • Starting the DORM study and improving the way we sedate agitated and violent patients in the Emergency Department.
  • Showing that hot water is effective for the treatment of blue bottle stings.
  • Challenging the effectiveness of antivenom for redback spider bite and improving the way we treat the pain in redback spider bites.
  • Challenging treatments in clinical toxicology.

What inspires you?

Bring science and evidence to clinical medicine.

What did you do before coming to work at Calvary Mater Newcastle?

I did my training in emergency medicine at Royal Darwin Hospital and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. I studied Science and Medicine at the University of NSW.

What has helped you the most in your research at Calvary Mater Newcastle?

Hard work and establishing collaborations with many researchers across Australia and internationally.

Who are your main collaborators at Calvary Mater Newcastle?

Michael Downes, Colin Page, Lisa Lincz, Michael Seldon and Ian Whyte.

What did you do before you became a researcher?

I was a University student.

What made you decide to do research?

To understand and improve the treatment of poisoning and envenoming. Define what happens in patients who are poisoned or envenomed and challenge and improve old and new treatments for these conditions.

What was your first / worst / best / strangest / memorable /etc job in research?

Having dead spiders sent by Australia Post to the CMN from all over Australia.

What do you do to relax?

Run long distances, listen to music and enjoy Australian craft beer.

What is the craziest thing you have ever had to do "in the name of research"?

Collected live mouse spiders to milk for their venom.


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