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


Anna Coussens, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, VIC


James Fraser, University of Queensland, QLD


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


Dena Lyras, Monash University, VIC


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


Malcolm McConville, University of Melbourne, VIC


Kate Schroder, IMB, The University of Queensland, QLD