International Speakers

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James S. Duncan
Cancer Biology Program, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA

James Duncan, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, USA. He received both is undergraduate and graduate degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Western Ontario and completed his postdoctoral studies at the University of North Carolina. Dr. Duncan’s lab uses proteomics methods including kinome profiling strategies to discover new kinase therapeutic targets in cancer and to explore resistance mechanisms to molecular targeted therapies. Dr. Duncan is currently investigating kinase targets driving tumor survival and resistance in endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancers. His lab is also interested in applying proteomics approaches to interrogate the understudied or “dark” kinome’ to identify previously unexplored kinase targets for the treatment of cancer.

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Marcia C. Haigis
Harvard Medical School,
Boston, MA

Marcia C. Haigis, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, a member of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging, and the Ludwig Center at Harvard Medical School. Following graduate training in Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Biochemistry, Dr. Haigis studied mitochondrial metabolism during her postdoctoral research at MIT. She has contributed to understanding the role that mitochondrial sirtuins play in metabolism and disease. She has received a number of honors, including the Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award, the Brookdale Foundation Leadership in Aging Award, and selection for the National Academy of Medicine's Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Program.

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Benjamin G. Neel
Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center
NYU Langone, NY

As the director of Perlmutter Cancer Center, Benjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD, leads a rigorous academic community of clinician–scientists and basic scientists, as well as a team of compassionate physicians who are dedicated to their patients. Research in the Neel Lab focuses on cell signaling in cancer and developmental disease, as well as the biology of breast and ovarian cancer. Dr Neel was the inaugural recipient of the Gertrude Elion Award of the American Association for Cancer Research, has held multiple named lectureships, is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians, a former member of the board of directors of the American Association for Cancer Research, and co-founder of Northern Biologics, a biotechnology company developing new therapies for cancer and fibrosis.

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Jukka Westermarck
Turku Bioscience Center, University of Turku

Jukka Westermarck is a Professor of Cancer Biology, and Research Director, in the Turku Bioscience Centre at University of Turku, Finland. Westermarck earned his medical degree from University of Turku in 1996. He has worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dirk Bohmann in the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany and as a group leader in the Institute of Medical Technology at University of Tampere, and after which he returned to Turku as tenured Research Director of Turku Centre for Biotechnology, and as a Professor of Cancer Biology at the Faculty of Medicine. He was appointed as Academy Fellow by the Academy of Finland, and has worked as a visiting Professor at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston. Professor Westermarck became an elected member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters in 2017.
His research focuses on role and regulation of phosphatases, particularly tumor suppressor protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) in human cancers. Based on this work his group has identified several novel signaling principles how PP2A regulates cancer progression, as well as potential novel cancer therapy targets and diagnostic biomarkers.

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Jin Zhang
University of California, San Diego

Dr Jin Zhang received her PhD in Chemistry from the U. Chicago. After completing her postdoctoral work at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), she joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2003. She was promoted to Professor in 2013. In 2015 she moved back to UCSD and is currently a Professor of Pharmacology, Bioengineering and Chemistry & Biochemistry. Research in her lab focuses on developing enabling technologies to probe the active molecules in their native environment and characterizing how these active molecules change in diseases including cancer. Professor Zhang is a recipient of the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (2009), the John J. Abel Award in Pharmacology from ASPET (2012), the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry from ACS (2012), and the Outstanding Investigator Award (2015) from NCI. She was elected as a Fellow of AAAS in 2014 and a Fellow of AIMBE in 2019.

Local Speakers

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Mate Biro
University of New South Wales

Dr. Maté Biro received his PhD summa cum laude at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany in 2011. His doctoral work focused on the biophysics of cellular actin cortex assembly. He previously studied Physics (BSc) and then Bioinformatics and Theoretical Systems Biology (MSc) at the Imperial College in London, UK, and did his Masters research at MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA. He has worked at a particle accelerator in Tsukuba, Japan and as a Research Associate at the Bioinformatics Institute of A*STAR in Singapore. In 2012, he moved to Sydney and the Centenary Institute at the University of Sydney, working on T cell migration and antitumour functions. Dr. Biro joined EMBL Australia as a group leader at the Single Molecule Science node at UNSW in January 2016. His research, highly multidisciplinary in nature, focuses on the migration of cytotoxic lymphocytes and tumour cells, and the signaling and mechanical interactions between them.

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Sarah-Jane Dawson
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson is a clinician-scientist. She obtained her medical degree from the University of Melbourne in 1998, and trained as a medical oncologist in Melbourne, Australia. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK. Following postdoctoral studies at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, she returned to Melbourne in 2014 to head the Molecular Biomarkers and Translational Genomics Laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. She also holds a joint appointment with the Centre of Cancer Research at The University of Melbourne (since 2016) and currently holds a CSL Centenary Fellowship (2018-2022). She is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and was recipient of the Jian Zhou Medal in recognition of translational medical science in 2020. Her current research interests are focused on the development of noninvasive blood-based biomarkers ('liquid biopsies') for clinical application, including early detection, risk stratification and disease monitoring in cancer management.

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David Eisenstat
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Professor David Eisenstat is a paediatric haematologist-oncologist, neuro-oncologist and developmental biologist who received clinical and basic science research training from the University of Toronto, the Hospital for Sick Children, UCSF's Laboratory of Molecular Neuro-Oncology and Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. From 1999-2011, David was a Senior Investigator at the Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology, CancerCare Manitoba, University of Manitoba, Canada and Director of Paediatric and Adult Neuro-Oncology. From 2011-2020, he was the inaugural Muriel & Ada Hole Kids with Cancer Society Chair in Pediatric Oncology at the University of Alberta, Canada, Co-Director of the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta (2014-2017) and Academic Chair and Professor, Department of Oncology (2017-2020). Professor Eisenstat joined The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne as Director of the Children's Cancer Centre in November 2020, and is a Group Leader, Neuro-Oncology, Cell Biology Theme, Murdoch Children's Research Institute.

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David Komander
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

David Komander studied in Germany and Scotland, working on protein kinase structures during his PhD in Dundee. As a postdoc in London, he initiated work on tumour suppressor deubiquitinases, leading to the first structures on CYLD and A20. Focussing on E3 ligases, ubiquitin binding domains and deubiquitinases, he went on to set up his own highly successful research group at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK.

He was recipient for the Lister prize in 2012 and became an EMBO member in 2014. At the end of 2018 David Komander moved to Australia to become head of the newly founded Ubiquitin Signalling Division at the Water and Eliza Hall Institute in Parkville.

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Delphine Merino
Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute

Dr Delphine Merino received her PhD from the University of Burgundy (France), investigating the role of the extrinsic pathway of apoptosis in cancer cell survival and drug resistance. In 2008, she joined the Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division at WEHI (Australia) as postdoctoral fellow to study the function of the intrinsic survival pathway in immune homeostasis and cancer progression. Her work was extended to the study of BH3 mimetics, small molecules that inhibit pro-survival proteins. She tested the impact of several BH3 mimetics (including venetoclax) on normal and malignant lymphoid cells. In 2012, she joined the Stem Cells and Cancer Division (WEHI) as senior post-doctoral fellow, to study breast cancer progression and the effect of BH3 mimetics on various breast cancer subtypes.

Since 2017, Dr Merino is a laboratory head at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute. Her group, focussing on metastasis and tumour heterogeneity, has an interest in identifying the biological features of the cells which are most likely to form clinically relevant macro-metastasis and resist standard therapy.

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Antonella Papa
Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Dr Antonella Papa received her PhD in Cellular Biology and Physiology working in the laboratory of Prof Della Valle, Department of Biology, University of Bologna, Italy, working on the functional role of Neurotrophin receptor TrkA and p75NTR in regulation of neuronal differentiation and cell death implicated in Neuroblastoma development and Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2008, Antonella joined the laboratory of Prof Pier Paolo Pandolfi, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, for her post-doctoral training. During that time she worked on the functional characterization of mouse models with single and compound loss of tumour suppressors such as Pml, Tsc2, p53, and more predominantly with the phosphatase Pten. Antonella's main focus was on the in vivo phenotyping and subsequent identification of novel molecular mechanisms underlining the Pten loss-of-function-driven tumourigenesis.

In late 2014, Antonella joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University, where she has established her own lines of research focused on the identification of the molecular mechanisms driving breast and brain cancer formation and associated with mutations in members of the PI3K pathway.

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Renea Taylor
Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Renea Taylor, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology, Monash University. Renea leads the Prostate Cancer Research Group and is the co-head of the Cancer Program in the Biomedicine Discovery Institute. A/Prof Taylor graduated with a PhD in Reproductive Endocrinology in 2003 at Monash University and completed her postdoctoral training at the National Stem Cell Centre. She pursued her research interest in hormone-dependent cancer, specialising in prostate cancer.

Her work focuses on dissecting appropriate cellular targets in cancer and identifying novel therapeutic strategies to treat prostate cancer. Her team is internationally-recognised for expertise in patient-derived xenografts (PDXs), which in collaboration with her urology, pathology and oncology colleagues, provides a strong translational approach to address clinically relevant questions. More recently, her team has focused on elucidating the endocrine and metabolic changes that contribute to prostate cancer disease progression, and developed a strong interest in preclinical therapeutic testing of promising agents to treat lethal prostate cancer.

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Tony Tiganis
Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Professor Tiganis currently heads the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute's Metabolism, Diabetes and Obesity Program. His laboratories are focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms contributing to the development of obesity and diabetes and determining how obesity and metabolism affect tumour cells and the immune system to promote the development of cancer. Professor Tiganis also holds an adjunct position with the Yale School of Medicine.

Professor Tiganis’ laboratory takes an integrative approach that stems the fields of metabolism, immunology and cancer to address fundamental questions in biology and disease. A particular focus is the pathophysiological mechanisms contributing to obesity and type 2 diabetes and how these in turn drive the development of diseases such non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cancer.

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Andrew Wilks
SYNthesis Research

Professor Andrew Wilks is a serial entrepreneur with twenty years commercial experience, following a successful academic career at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. At the Ludwig, Andrew discovered and named many novel protein kinases, including the JAK family of kinases, and went on to found Cytopia in 1997.
Cytopia was one of Australia’s earliest listed drug discovery companies. Since then, Andrew has founded or co-founded ten companies that undertake self-funded drug discovery or provide drug discovery services to the Australian drug discovery sector. In particular, he is co-founder (with Dr Xian Bu) of SYNthesis med chem, a global contract chemistry group with laboratories in China and more than 250 scientists world-wide, and The Pharm, a “venture-discovery” company that funds and manages drug discovery collaborations generated from academia.
Andrew holds an Adjunct/Honorary Professorship in the Department of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University. Andrew was awarded the Australian BioBusiness Award in 2007 and was elected to the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) in the same year. He was awarded the Johnson and Johnson Ausbiotech Innovation Industry Leadership Award in 2016 and the ATSE Clunies Ross Medal (Entrepreneur of the Year) in 2017.


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