Invited Speakers


International invited Speakers

Mike Blackman.jpg

Mike Blackman, The Francis Crick Institute, UK

Dr. Mike Blackman was born in Stockport in the UK and obtained a BSc in Microbiology from the University of Leeds in 1981. He worked on interferon gamma in Alan Morris’ group at the University of Warwick, then moved to the Medical Research Council’s unit in The Gambia, West Africa. It was here that he developed his interest in the mechanistic basis of host cell invasion by the malaria parasite. Mike returned to the UK in 1988 to study for a PhD in Tony Holder’s lab at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR). Following graduation he stayed at NIMR, taking up a career track appointment and then being awarded tenure in 2000. In 2017, Mike moved to the Francis Crick Institute as a Senior Group Leader. Mike also holds a position as Professor of Molecular Parasitology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.


Gong Cheng, Tsinghua University, School of Medicine, China

Dr. Gong Cheng is a professor at Tsinghua University School of Medicine. He received the Ph.D. of Microbiology from Fudan University in 2008. From 2008 to 2012, Dr. Cheng served as a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Dr. Cheng currently leads a research unit studying the pathogenesis and immune responses of arboviral infections in both hosts and mosquito vectors. Dengue, Zika and Japanese encephalitis viruses are areas of particular interest. Studies are directed at understanding the molecular basis of viral infection, virulence and transmission by animal and mosquito models.


Sara Cherry, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Sara Cherry is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania, Scientific Director of the High-throughput Screening Core and Director of the Chemogenomic Discovery Program in the School of Medicine. She obtained her BS with Dr. Peter Schultz at Berkeley synthesizing new biopolymers for drug scaffolds, and then her PhD with Dr. David Baltimore at MIT studying early B cell development. Next, she completed her postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Norbert Perrimon where she developed high-throughput RNAi screening to study virus-host interactions. She started her laboratory at Penn in 2006 where she has applied RNAi technology and other cell-based screening approaches to discover mechanisms by which diverse viral pathogens, largely focusing on arthropod-borne viruses, hijack cellular machinery while evading defenses. Her pioneering screening platform has opened up new avenues of discovery. More recently, she has uncovered new insights into the interplay between metabolic regulation, the microbiota and immune defense. While her laboratory continues to explore the interface of viruses, including globally important emerging pathogens, with host cells, she has expanded her interests to cancer where she has developed a functional precision pipeline to screen acute leukemia cells for their sensitivities to FDA approved drugs.


Dana Philpott, University of Toronto, Canada

Dana Philpott is a Professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto and co-director of the Host-Microbiome Research Network, where she has established the first gnotobiotic (ie germ-free) mouse facility in Toronto. Dr. Philpott’s research employs animal models of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and considers how innate immunity and the microbiome shape immune homeostasis within the intestine. Specifically, her group studies three genes implicated in the pathogenesis of the IBD, Crohn’s disease. This disease can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract and the chronic inflammation that ensues can put individuals at risk for developing colon cancer. Current treatment strategies, which include steroids, immunomodulatory drugs, and anti-TNFa biologics, calm the inflammatory response but do not cure CD. Continued basic research is needed to define disease mechanisms to uncover new targets for therapy and find a cure for this increasingly prevalent chronic disorder.


Franca Ronchese, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, New Zealand

Franca Ronchese trained at the University of Padova, Italy, and then as a Postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Ron Germain at the NIH, USA. After her postdoctoral studies, she joined the Basel Institute for Immunology in Basel, Switzerland, where Franca became interested in antigen presentation by dendritic cells in vivo. Since 1994 France has been leading the Immune Cell Biology group at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, New Zealand with a focus on developing immune therapies for cancer and allergies. Her current work examines dendritic cell diversity during the initiation of CD4+ helper T cell responses.

Franca is a Programme Leader at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington, NZ, and Research Professor at Victoria University of Wellington. 


Arthuro Zychlinsky, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Germany

Arturo Zychlinsky was appointed director of the Department of Cellular Microbiology at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in 2001. He studied biology at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Mexico D. F., Mexico (1980 - 1985). In 1991, he received his Ph.D. in Immunology from the Rockefeller University, New York, USA. Afterwards, he spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, France. From 1993 - 2001 he was professor at the Skirball Institute and Department of Microbiology at the New York University School of Medicine. The Zychlinsky lab is the one that discovered NETs (Neutrophil Extracellular Traps) which are made of chromatin and specific neutrophil proteins. Currently, the lab is working on the mechanisms of NET formation as well as the function of NET components, especially histones, in order to understand the function of chromatin in immunity.


Local invited Speakers


Rowena Bull, University of New South Wales, NSW

Rowena’s laboratory is interested in understanding the interaction between host and virus and the resulting influence on disease outcome in humans. They examine a number of different viruses, including hepatitis C virus, norovirus, Influenza and Dengue. They take a multidisciplinary approach by integrating virology, immunology and bioinformatics tools. They have recently been using antigen-specific B cell sorting combined with single cell RNAseq to examine the viral and human factors that contribute to the delayed antibody response to hepatitis c virus.


Anna Coussens, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, VIC

Anna Coussens, is a Lab head at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) and Honorary Assoc Prof within the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases in Africa, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Her research focuses on developing pre-clinical cellular models of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV-1 host-pathogen interactions on which to test host-directed interventions designed to prevent pathogen replication, cell death, matrix destruction and improve lung healing. She also investigates biomarkers of infection and early stages of human TB-HIV pathogenesis for targeted prevention of disease and relapse. This includes genetic and epigenetic changes in both the host and bacteria and how these impact the inflammatory response during infection. Her lab is particularly interested in the regulation of various cell death pathways and the heterogeneity of cellular responses which they probe with single cell techniques and advanced live cell imaging.    


James Fraser, University of Queensland, QLD


Ian Henderson, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, QLD

Qualifications: B.Sc. (Hons) University College Dublin 1990, Ph.D. Trinity College Dublin 1996, PGCertLTHE University of Birmingham 2002.

Current roles: Deputy Director Research; Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Queensland 2018-present, Professor of Microbial Biology; Institute of Microbiology and Infection, University of Birmingham, 2015-present.

Research Philosophy: His research interests focus on the bacterial cell surface. This focus is based on the philosophy that the bacterial cell surface offers a rich source of molecules, which can be utilized and adapted to treat or prevent infections. Currently we have four major themes exploiting a range of experimental techniques to address fundamental questions in the biology of host-pathogen interactions: (1) They use biochemical and biophysical methodologies to study the biogenesis of a group of proteins termed auto transporters, (2) they use structural, biochemical and biophysical techniques to understand the basis for outer membrane biogenesis, (3) they use molecular biology, cellular biology and immunological methodologies to study the roles outer membrane proteins play in the interaction of pathogens with their hosts and (4) they utilize genome sequencing to appreciate the diversity and repertoire of surface proteins among gram-negative bacteria with a view to developing novel intervention strategies.


GEORGINA HOLD, Microbiome Research Centre, University of New South Wales, NSW

Georgina Hold is the Professor of Gut Health at the Microbiome Research Centre, St George and Sutherland Clinical School at UNSW. Her research focusses on understanding the impact of gastrointestinal microbes on human health and disease. Developing greater understanding in this area allows us to further appreciate the contribution that gut microbes play in diseases and potentially develop therapeutic strategies to maintain and restore health. Her lab has an internationally renowned reputation for microbiome analysis, collaborating with multi-disciplinary research teams and harnessing input from clinicians, microbiologists, nutritionists, epidemiologists, bioinformaticians and also public health analysts. She has an impressive publication record with over 100 peer-reviewed papers to date. Her work has contributed significantly to understanding the role of the gut microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Her group was the first to identify an over-representation of epsilon Proteobacteria (non-pylori Helicobacter and emerging Campylobacter) in ulcerative colitis and was also the first to publish a detailed metagenomic assessment of the paediatric gut microbiota in treatment naive de-novo presenting children with IBD, demonstrating that changes in microbial diversity in established disease are not present at disease onset. She is a leading authority on emerging Campylobacter and heads an international effort to whole genome sequence clinical strains in order to understand their role in intestinal disease. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship (Harvard School of Public Health) in 2014.


Dena Lyras, Monash University, VIC

Professor Dena Lyras is an ARC Future Fellow located in the Department of Microbiology at Monash University. Her research team has developed new and innovative ways by which disease-causing clostridial species can be genetically manipulated and they have used these tools to understand the role played by regulatory and virulence factors encoded by this group of bacteria. Her studies are focussed on gut pathogens, particularly those involved in antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, and examine how these pathogens interact with the host and cause disease. Using these research outcomes, her team is developing specific immunotherapeutic products for the prevention and treatment of these infections. Antibiotic resistance and DNA mobility are also studied in her laboratory, in the context of gut pathogens and antibiotic-associated diarrhoeal disease.


Laura Mackay, Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne, VIC

Associate Professor Laura Mackay holds appointments at The Peter Doherty Institute at The University of Melbourne and A*STAR in Singapore. She is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and Bill & Melinda Gates International Scholar, a Sylvia & Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation Senior Medical Research Fellow and a National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Fellow. She is the recipient of Awards including The Gottschalk Medal (Australian Academy of Science), The Woodward Medal in Science and Technology, The Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and The Victorian Young Tall Poppy Award, and she is the President of The Federation of Immunological Societies of Asia-Oceania (FIMSA). For a number of years, Laura has been at the forefront of research into tissue-resident immune cells and their role in local immunity. The current focus of her Laboratory is on the molecular signals that govern tissue-resident memory T cell differentiation, with a view to harness these cells for the development of new immunotherapeutic strategies against disease.


Malcolm McConville, University of Melbourne, VIC

Professor Malcolm McConville is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and Associate director of the Bio21 Institute of Molecular Science and Biotechnology at the University of Melbourne. His research group in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to study the metabolism of human pathogens such as Leishmania, Plasmodium, Toxoplasma and mycobacteria. His group pioneered the development and application of metabolomic approaches to understand how intracellular pathogens survive in host cells, with the view of identifying new drug targets for pathogen and host-directed therapies.   He is currently Convenor of the NCRIS funded Metabolomics Australia national network.


Kate Schroder, IMB, The University of Queensland, QLD

Associate Professor Kate Schroder heads the Inflammasome Laboratory at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, as an NHMRC RD Wright Fellow. She is also the Director of the IMB Centre for Inflammation and Disease Research. Kate’s graduate studies defined novel macrophage activation mechanisms. Her postdoctoral research identified surprising inter-species divergence in the inflammatory programs of human versus mouse macrophages. As an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellow in Switzerland, Kate then trained with Prof Jürg Tschopp, a pioneer in the field of inflammasome and cell death signalling pathways. Kate’s laboratory investigates the molecular mechanisms governing inflammasome activity and caspase activation, the cell biology of inflammation, cell death and host defence, and mechanisms of inflammasome inhibition by cellular pathways and small molecule inhibitors. Kate is a co-inventor on patents for small molecule inhibitors of the NLRP3 inflammasome, currently under commercialization and clinical testing by Inflazome Ltd.