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ASBMB Medallist Speakers
- ASBMB Lemberg Medallist: Jamie Rossjohn
Professor Jamie Rossjohn is an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, Head of the Infection and Immunity Program within the Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University, and Professor of Structural Immunology at the School of Medicine, Cardiff University, UK.
Following on from his schooling in Llantwit Major, Wales, Rossjohn undertook his PhD under the supervision of Garry Taylor at the University of Bath (1994). Subsequently, Rossjohn took up a postdoctoral position within Professor Michael Parker’s laboratory (St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research), where he determined the structure of perfrinfolysin O, a pore-forming toxin. In 2002, as a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, Rossjohn relocated to the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, headed by Christina Mitchell, at Monash University, to pursue a program of research centered on structural immunology.
At Monash, the focus of Rossjohn’s laboratory has been on defining the key molecular interactions underlying receptor recognition events that underpin immunity, both from the aspect of protective immune control and with regard to autoimmunity. Such findings were in close collaboration with luminaries in the field, including James McCluskey. As an ARC Federation Fellow (2007–2011) and an NHMRC Australia Fellow (2011–2016), Rossjohn has used structural biology to explain how the T cell receptor recognises human leukocyte antigen (HLA) molecules in the context of viral immunity and aberrant T cell reactivity. With Tony Purcell and James McCluskey, he has unearthed structural mechanisms of HLA polymorphism impacting on adverse drug reactions and food hypersensitivities (Celiac disease). Alongside Andrew Brooks, he has provided insight into Natural Killer (NK) cell receptor recognition of HLA, and how viral immunoevasins target NK cell function. With Branch Moody and Dale Godfrey, he has pioneered our molecular understanding of lipid-based immunity by T cells, providing insight into recognition of mycobacterial antigens, autoreactive responses to lipids, and lipid-mediated contact hypersensitivities. Recently, alongside James McCluskey and David Fairlie, he has provided a structural basis of how vitamin B metabolites can be presented by MR1 and recognised by mucosal-associated T cells, thereby revealing an entirely new class of antigen in immunity. Collectively, Rossjohn’s research on the immune system, how the body reacts to infection and what happens when the immune system fails has led to a sustained advancement of knowledge in the field of immunity. His work has been generously supported by the Cancer Council, the NHMRC and the ARC, including the current Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging.
- ASBMB Merck Research Medallist: Mehdi Mobli
Associate Professor Mehdi Mobli is a Principal Research Fellow at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Advanced Imaging. His research group has a particular interest in understanding the mechanisms of ion channel function in health and disease. Ion channels have proven particularly recalcitrant to traditional drug discovery approaches and his group seeks to address this through improved understanding of the structure and function of these channels. Their approach is to use a range of biochemical and molecular biology approaches to stabilise different functional states of the channels in vitro, and then to assess the structure and function of these engineered channels using a range of advanced biophysical methods. In addition to making significant contributions in this general field, his group is also well known for technical and theoretical contributions to the field of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.
Mehdi graduated as a chemical engineer from Chalmers University in Sweden. He was awarded an industry-sponsored CASE award by GlaxoSmithKline in 2001, to undertake a PhD degree in the highly rated Chemistry Department at the University of Liverpool, UK. His first postdoctoral position was at the University of Connecticut Medical School, where he worked on the then recently introduced reduced dimensionality methods to improve resolution and throughput of protein structure determination by NMR. Following a brief postdoctoral position at the University of Manchester, working on the role of dynamics in the biological function of glycans, he commenced his final postdoctoral position in the group of Professor Glenn King at UQ working on the structure of spider venom peptides.
Mehdi established his research group in 2012 through the award of an ARC Future Fellowship at the Centre for Advanced Imaging. He has published approximately 80 research articles, 13 book chapters and two books. He was awarded the 2013 Sir Paul Callaghan Medal of the ANZMAG Society for his contributions to the field of NMR spectroscopy and, more recently, he received the 2017 Tregear Award by the Australian Peptide Society for his work in the field of peptide research.
His group is currently developing new technologies to stabilise the ligand binding domain of ion channels, so that they can be used as targets for high-throughput drug screening and provide a much-needed new stream of ion channel drug candidates
ASPS Award Speakers
- ASPS R.N. Robertson Award Lecturer: To be advised
- ASPS Peter Goldacre Award Lecturer: To be advised
ANZSCDB Award Speaker
- ANZSCDB President's Medal Lecturer: To be advised
NZSBMB Award Speaker
- NZSBMB Custom Science Award Lecturer: Wayne Patrick
Wayne Patrick is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Victoria University of Wellington. His undergraduate training was at the University of Otago and his PhD was at the University of Cambridge – but that all feels like a long time ago now. Wayne’s research lies at the intersection of biochemistry and evolutionary biology. He and his group borrow tools from enzymology, synthetic biology, structural biology, directed evolution and microbiology to address fundamental evolutionary questions. They also use their evolutionary insights to engineer enzymes with new and improved properties. Questions that keep Wayne awake at night include "Where do new enzymes come from?", "Is it easy to invent new protein folds?", "Can we design enzymes that do what we want?" and "Will I ever run another decent half-marathon?".
NZSPB Award Speaker
- Roger Slack Award Lecturer: To be advised
International Plenary Speakers
Photographs and biographies will be added as they become available
- Gary Brouhard – McGill University, Quebec, Canada
- Paula Cannon – University of Southern California, USA
- Ellen Lumpkin – Columbia University, New York, USA
- Christof Niehrs, Institute of Molecular Biology Mainz (IMB), Germany
Christof Niehrs is Scientific Director at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB), Mainz, and head of the division Molecular Embryology at the German Cancer Research Center Heidelberg (DKFZ). He studied biochemistry at the Freie Universität Berlin and received his PhD (1990) working with Wieland Huttner at EMBL Heidelberg, characterizing tyrosylprotein sulfotransferase. As postdoc he worked with Eddy De Robertis at UCLA studying homeobox genes in Xenopus development. Since 1994 he heads the Division of Molecular Embryology at DKFZ Heidelberg where he studies Wnt signaling. In 2010 he was appointed founding director of the IMB, where he focusses on epigenetic gene regulation. His laboratory has made important discoveries concerning Spemann organizer function, regulation of Wnt signaling, and DNA demethylation. He has received national and international awards and is member of various learned societies.
- Anna Philpott, University of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK
I am a developmental biologist with a long-standing interest in how cell in developing embryos control the decision to divide or to differentiate in co-ordination with cell cycle events, and how this co-ordination is subverted in cancer cells.
I undertook a PhD in sperm chromatin biology at the University of Cambridge and followed this with two post-docs at Harvard Medical School, exploring the role of cyclin-dependent kinases and other cell cycle regulators in control of cellular differentiation. I moved back to Cambridge in 1998 to start my own lab as a Lecturer in the Department of Oncology, University of Cambridge and I am now Professor and Deputy Head of Department in Oncology, as well as a member of the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute. My lab continues to use multiple systems, and in particular Xenopus eggs and embryos, mammalian ES and cancer cells, 3D organoids and genetically engineered mice, to understand regulation of proliferation versus differentiation at the biochemical, epigenetic and tissue level.
- Elizabeth Robertson, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Since 2004 I have been a Professor of Developmental Biology at the University of Oxford. I originally trained with Martin Evans in Cambridge where, working together with Allan Bradley, we were the first to show that embryonic stem cells reliably colonized the mouse germ line. I started my own lab at Columbia University, New York in the late 1980s where we published the first example of germ line transmission of an induced mutation engineered via homologous recombination in ES cells. After moving to Harvard in the early 1990’s we worked extensively on the TGFb growth factor nodal, uncovering numerous roles for this signaling pathway in axis specification and definitive endoderm formation in the early mouse embryo. Most recently we have been working on key down-stream transcription factors, attempting to provide new mechanistic insights into how these networks execute different functions according to their cellular context in the embryo.
- Randy Schekman, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Randy Wayne Schekman is a Nobel Prize-winning American professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. For the past four decades, Randy Schekman has been characterizing the traffic drivers that shuttle cellular proteins as they move in membrane-bound sacs, or vesicles, within a cell. His detailed elucidation of cellular travel patterns has provided fundamental knowledge about cells and has enhanced understanding of diseases that arise when bottlenecks impede some of the protein flow. Schekman shared the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with James Rothman and Thomas C. Südhof for their ground-breaking work on cell membrane vesicle trafficking. Schekman is former editor-in-chief of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and in 2011, he was announced as the editor of eLife.
- Keiko Torii, University of Washington, Washington, USA
- Michael Udvardi, Noble Research Institute, Oklahoma, USA
Michael Udvardi is the Chief Scientific Officer of the Noble Research Institute in Ardmore, Oklahoma, USA. Dr. Udvardi earned his Ph.D. in plant biochemistry from the Australian National University in 1989. He is primarily interested in how plants obtain nitrogen for growth, either as mineral nitrogen from the soil or from atmospheric di-nitrogen via symbiotic nitrogen fixation in bacteria. He has contributed to our understanding of symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes, especially of transport and metabolism in root nodules, using biochemical, molecular, genetic, and genomic methods. He was amongst the first to characterize ammonium and nitrate transporters in plants. Recently, his group has expanded its work on plant nitrogen to include associative nitrogen fixation, as well as nitrogen recycling during shoot senescence, in perennial plants. His group also has interests in plant acclimation and adaptation to abiotic stress, including drought and salinity. He was part of a large international team that sequenced and analyzed the Medicago truncatula genome and is now involved in efforts to sequence the related alfalfa (Medicago sativa) genome. He is also part of an international team that is trying to develop synthetic nitrogen-fixing symbioses in plants. Dr. Udvardi has published over 160 papers in refereed scientific journals. He was Elected Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science in 2012 for his contributions to our understanding of legume biology, especially symbiotic nitrogen fixation.
- Tobias Walther , Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
Prof. Dr. Tobias Walther is a German biochemist elucidating the mechanisms underlying lipid and membrane homeostasis. He is particularly interested in the processes of metabolic energy storage as fat in health and disease, for instance during obesity and the metabolic syndrome or in neurodegeneration. He received his Ph.D. from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg in 2002, working on nuclear pores in Iain Mattaj’s laboratory. He then trained with Prof. Dr. Peter Walter at the UCSF in San Francisco (CA, USA) where he studied membrane biochemistry and cell biology. In 2006, he started his laboratory first at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (Germany) then Yale University (CT, USA). In July 2014, he moved to the Harvard School of Public Health and Medical School in Boston (MA, USA) where he runs a laboratory on metabolism research with his scientific partner Robert Farese, Jr.
- Valerie Weaver , University of California, San Francisco, USA
Dr. Weaver is currently the Director of the Center for Bioengineering and Tissue Regeneration in the Department of Surgery, and is a Professor in the Departments of Surgery, Anatomy and Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at UCSF in San Francisco, CA. Her education took place in Canada, with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Waterloo, an Honors Bachelor’s and PhD degree in Biochemistry from the University of Ottawa with a two year postdoctoral training at the Institute for Biological Sciences, National Research Council of Canada and a 5 year postdoctoral tenure at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at UC Berkeley with Dr. Mina J Bissell. Dr. Weaver was recruited to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where she joined the faculty in the Department of Pathology as an Assistant Professor and was appointed a full member of the Institute for Medicine and Engineering. In mid-2006 she relocated to UCSF in San Francisco as an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery with a joint appointment in Anatomy to take on the Directorship of the Center for Bioengineering & Tissue regeneration. She was invited to join the UCSF Cancer Center and Stem Cell Programs in 2007 and was cross appointed to the newly formed Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences in 2008 and was promoted to full Professor in 2010. Dr. Weaver has over 20 years of experience in leading interdisciplinary research in oncology, including leadership of significant program projects including the Bay Area Physical Sciences and Oncology program and the UCSF Tumor Microenvironment Brain Program that merge approaches in the physical/engineering sciences with cancer cell biology and emphasize the role of the tumor microenvironment. Dr. Weaver has been recognized for her research and leadership through receipt of several awards including the DOD BCRP Scholar award in 2005 and the DOD BCRP Scholar expansion award in 20013 for exceptional creativity in breast cancer research and the ASCB WICB Midcareer award for sustained excellence in cell biology research in 2014. Most recently she was elected as the chair of the AACR TMEN working group in 2015. Her research program focuses on the contribution of force, cell-intrinsic as well as extracellular matrix, to breast, pancreatic and glioblastoma tumor development and treatment.
- Nieng Yan, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA
Dr. Nieng Yan received her B.S. degree from the Department of Biological Sciences & Biotechnology, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, in 2000. She then pursued her PhD in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University under the supervision of Prof. Yigong Shi between 2000 and 2004. She was the regional winner of the Young Scientist Award (North America) co-sponsored by Science/AAAS and GE Healthcare in 2005 for her thesis on the structural and mechanistic study of programmed cell death. She continued her postdoctoral training at Princeton University, focusing on the structural characterization of intramembrane proteases. In 2007, she joined the faculty of School of Medicine, Tsinghua University. Her lab has been mainly focusing on the structural and functional study of membrane transport proteins exemplified by the glucose transporters and Nav/Cav channels. In 2012 and 2013, she was promoted to tenured professor and Bayer Endowed Chair Professor, respectively. She returned to Princeton University as the founding Shirley M. Tilghman Professor of Molecular Biology in 2017. Dr. Yan was an HHMI international early career scientist in 2012-2017, Cheung Kong Scholar, the recipient of the 2015 Protein Society Young Investigator Award and the 2015 Beverley & Raymond Sackler International Prize in Biophysics, and the Alexander M. Cruickshank lecturer at the GRC on membrane transport proteins in 2016.