Speaker Lineup

We've carefully curated a programme that will educate & inspire, featuring leading local and international scientists including molecular biologists, biostatisticians and clinical researchers. Meet our lineup so far:

Doctor Niklas Blomberg

Director, ELIXIR

Dr Niklas Blomberg is the Director of ELIXIR, the pan-European infrastructure for biological information. Here Blomberg's research utilizes computational chemistry and biology to investigate respiratory and inflammation. Before taking directorship in 2013, he started his research career with a BSc in Chemistry from Göteborg University and completed his PhD at EMBL in Heidelberg, Germany, working on structural bioinformatics and protein NMR spectroscopy.

Before he joined ELIXIR, he worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a group leader in Computational Chemistry and Computational Biology at AstraZeneca R&D Mölndal, Sweden. Here his focus was on inflammatory research where he built a new cross-disciplinary team for computational chemistry and computational biology. Blomberg also co-chaired the Innovative Medicines Initiative Open PHACTS project (2009-2013) a large scale biopharmaceutical initiative to boost development in Europe. This project is a private and public partnership involving 24 industrial and academic institutions and aims to develop standards and infrastructure for effective data-interoperability across chemistry and biology. Blomberg has also been the Chairman of the board for Bioinformatics for Life Science in Sweden (BILS), Chair of the advisory board for the Swedish e‐Science for Cancer prevention and cure project, Advisory board member for the Swedish eScience centre and the IMI eTRIKS project.

Professor Grant McArthur

Executive Director, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

Professor MacArthur is Consultant Medical Oncologist as well as Head Cancer Therapeutics Program, Head of the Translational Research Group and Head of the Molecular Oncology Laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. As of April 2017 Prof. MacArthur will be the new Executive Director of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. Prof. MacArthur’s work fosters collaboration between laboratory and clinical research investigating the application of new targeted therapies for cancer. His laboratory has a specific interest in melanoma, but also investigates other cancers. His research aims to gain an understanding of targeting oncogenic signalling in cancer and impact such therapies have on both the tumour cell and its microenvironment utilizing cell biology, molecular biology, functional imaging and clinical trials.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in Medical Oncology and was awarded the Translational Research Award of the Fondation Nelia et Amadeo Barletta (2004) and the Dunlop Clinical Research Fellowship of the Cancer Council of Victoria (2005). He is currently the inaugural Lorenzo Galli Chair of Melanoma and Skin Cancers.

Professor Leann Tilley

Associate Director, Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute

Leann Tilley is a Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Melbourne, and an Associate Director of the Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute. Professor Tilley’s work embraces a range of technologies across several disciplines, ranging from molecular parasitology to drug chemistry and the physics of imaging. Her research is focused on the molecular basis of unique malaria protein trafficking pathways allowing display of virulence proteins by host red blood cells, and how this allows the malaria parasite to be transmitted from a human host to a mosquito vector. Her lab has produced alternative approaches to combat malaria’s emerging resistance to anti-malarial drugs.

In 2015, Leann was awarded the Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship which recognizes her world leading research on malaria pathogenesis and drug resistance. Leann is working to bring imaging, biology and computational science disciplines together in a convergence approach to study the malaria parasite. Prof. Tilley’s work has been recognised by the award of the Bancroft-Mackerras Medal from the Australian Society for Parasitology (2010), Beckman Coulter Discovery Award of the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2011), Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship (2015) and Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research (2016). She is President-elect of the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Professor Terry Speed

Senior Principal Research Scientist, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Professor Terence “Terry” Speed is a laboratory head in the bioinformatics division from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. His team focuses on molecular data obtained from a range of biomedical collaborations with various researchers working on cancer, and immune and infectious diseases. His research includes but is not limited to statistical and bioinformatics analysis of microarray, DNA sequence and mass spectrometry data from genetics, genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. The DNA data analyses techniques developed within the Speed laboratory are used by thousands of researchers around the world and he is one of the most cited scientists, not only in mathematics, but in computer science, biology and biochemistry.

Most recently Terry’s extraordinary leadership in the field of bioinformatics was recognised by the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Scientific Leadership (2014). Former awards include the Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation in the Life Sciences (2012), the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science (2013) and he is a Fellow of The Royal Society of London (2013). Terry has also worked alongside criminologists as an expert witness at the Ronald Ryan case and the OJ Simpson trial.

Professor Geoff Faulkner

Laboratory Head, Genome Plasticity & Disease group, Mater Research Institute - University of Queensland (MRI-UQ)

Professor Geoff Faulkner is head of the Genome Plasticity & Disease group at the Mater Research Institute - University of Queensland (MRI-UQ). His research is focused on retrotransposons, a type of mobile DNA, previously described as junk DNA. Prof Faulkner aims to illuminate the role of these retrotranspospns in generating genetic mosaicism in neurons and their link to neurological diseases, including Rett syndrome and schizophrenia.

Since being awarded a PhD from the University of Queensland in 2009, Professor Faulkner has held continuous NHMRC Fellowship support (ECF, 2009; CDF1, 2013; SRFB, 2016). Over the course of his career, Professor Faulkner has published 44 peer-reviewed articles (>8,200 citations, h-index 27), including recent corresponding author publications in Nature and Cell. He is the recipient of the ASMR Queensland Premier’s Award (2009), the FEBS Anniversary Prize (2011), the Lorne Genome Millennium Science Award (2014), the Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize (2014), and the Australian Academy of Science Ruth Stephens Gani Medal (2016).

Doctor Nic Waddell

Medical Genomics Group Leader, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Dr Nic Waddell is head of the Medical Genomics group and deputy coordinator of the Genetics and Computational Biology Department at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. She is an NHMRC Career Development Fellow, bioinformatician focused on cancer research specialized in data interpretation, including next generation sequence data.

Her research focuses on the use of genomics to study and classify cancer throughout its progression and explore how next generation sequencing can be applied to address clinical challenges. Using genomic data Dr Waddell aims to classify tumours into significant subtypes, discover driver mutations, identify the mutational processes that underlie tumour development and find alternative therapeutic targets. These are important steps towards personalized medicine where the diagnosis, management and treatment of patients are based on the individual’s genomic data. This follows from her previous work in the analysis and interpretation of the Australian International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) Pancreatic project (PIs: Grimmond and Biankin).

Doctor Emma Sierecki

Group Leader, Interac Team, University of New South Wales

Dr Emma Sierecki is the leader of the Interac Team at UNSW. The focus of her research is on developing new technologies to rapidly map protein interaction networks, determining the architecture of protein complexes, and finding new targets for drug discovery. Protein-protein interactions are highly desirable targets in drug discovery, but only a fraction of drugs act as binding inhibitors so far. Dr Emma Sierecki studies multi-subunit protein complexes to facilitate drug discovery on protein-protein interactions, being particularly interested in protein complex formation in gene regulation and innate immunity. Her team uses a novel combination of cell-free protein co-expressions, a nanobead-based binding assay (AlphaScreen) and single-molecule spectroscopy to accelerate the measure of direct binding between proteins and to determine the stoichiometries of interactions.

Since being awarded a PhD from the Paris Descartes University she held postdoctoral positions at University of California San Diego and the University of Queensland before joining the University of New South Wales and becoming a group leader.

Science & Society discussion panellists

Dr Kate Patterson

Visual Science Communicator, Biomedical Animation and Immersive Visualisation: Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics | Lab Research Fellow, 3D Visualisation and Aesthetics Laboratory, UNSW Art and Design.

Dr Kate Patterson graduated from the University of Sydney faculty of Veterinary Science in 2003 and subsequently completed a PhD in cancer biology, signal transduction at the Garvan Institute in 2009. Kate then worked as a science writer and illustrator with Professor Susan Clark in the Epigenetics Research Group at the Garvan Institute and at the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Today, Dr Patterson is a Lab Research Fellow in the 3D visualisation and aesthetics laboratory at UNSW Art and Design and a Visual Communicator, Project Leader: VR Multimedia and Biomedical Animation for the Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics.

Her work primarily focuses on using visual language to transform complex scientific concepts for a general audience. She believes that communication is a critical component of medical research and using computer generated imagery and 3D animation, transforms raw scientific data using the tools of visual arts and cinematography into a form that can be used for education, communication and awareness purposes. She uses state-of-the art animation software (Maya and After Effects) to create scientifically accurate, three-dimensional animations that are designed to be visually impressive. She also writes the Drawing From Science column as part of the Science and Technology section of The Conversation.

Prof Kathrina Gaus

Scientia Professor and Head, EMBL Australia Node in Single Molecule Science Group Leader - Lymphocyte Signaling Group: University of New South Wales

Scientia Professor Katharina Gaus is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales and Head of the EMBL Australia Node in Single Molecule Science. She received her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1999, while being supported by the German National Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes). After the applied research at Cambridge, Professor Gaus joined the Cell Biology Group led by Professor Roger Dean and Professor Wendy Jessup at the Heart Research Institute in Sydney on a BASF-sponsored fellowship from the German National Scholarship Foundation (1999-2001). Following a period at the University of Urbana-Champagne, USA, Prof Gaus returned to Australia to take up an ARC postdoctoral fellowship linked to a Discovery Grant (2002-2004). Upon establishing her own group in 2005, Prof Gaus investigates signal transduction processes with advanced fluorescence microscopy approaches.

She has been awarded the ARC Early Researcher Award, a NSW Young Tall Poppy Award and an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, Young Investigator Award from the Australia and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology, the Gottschalk Medal from the Australian Academy of Science and the New South Wales Science and Engineering Award for Excellence in Biological Sciences.

A/Prof Marcel Dinger

Head of Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, Lab | Head of Genome Informatics | Principal Research Fellow | Conjoint Associate Professor, St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW

Associate Professor Marcel Dinger is the founding Chief Executive Officer of Genome.One, Head of the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics (KCCG) and conjoint Associate Professor at St Vincent’s Clinical School of UNSW. A/Prof Dinger also heads the Genome Informatics Laboratory, which is focused on understanding and dissecting the function of noncoding regions of the genome that are associated with human disease and development. His work is focused on understanding the informational architecture of the mammalian genome and increasing the clinical utility of genome sequencing, particularly the evolution of the tumour genome during cancer progression.

A/Prof Dinger was awarded his PhD in 2003 from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience where he studied the role of long noncoding RNAs in mammalian development and disease. During his postdoc, A/Prof Dinger led a number of key studies demonstrating the dynamic and specific expression of long noncoding RNAs that prompted extensive functional studies of these transcripts that were commonly assumed to be “junk”. A/Prof Dinger has published >80 papers attracting more than 10,000 citations, and is recipient of several highly competitive awards and fellowships. He is also a founder of two other successful start-up companies. In 2016, A/Prof Dinger was admitted as a Fellow into the Faculty of Sciences of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.