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Dr Alan Finkel Australia's Chief Scientist, Victoria, Australia
Dr Alan Finkel commenced as Australia’s Chief Scientist on 25 January 2016. He is Australia’s eighth Chief Scientist. Prior to becoming Chief Scientist, he was the eighth Chancellor of Monash University and the eighth President of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE).
Since commencing as Chief Scientist, Alan has led a number of national reviews, delivering the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, the 2017 Review into the National Electricity Market (‘Finkel Review’) and the 2018 STEM Industry Partnership Forum report. He serves as the Deputy Chair of Innovation and Science Australia.
Alan has an extensive science background as an entrepreneur, engineer, neuroscientist and educator. He was awarded his PhD in electrical engineering from Monash University and worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in neuroscience at the Australian National University.
In 1983, he founded Axon Instruments, a California-based, ASX-listed company that made precision scientific instruments used at pharmaceutical companies and universities for the discovery of new medicines. After Axon was sold in 2004, Dr Finkel became a director of the acquiring company, NASDAQ-listed Molecular Devices.
In 2006, he focused his career in Australia and undertook a wide range of activities. He led the amalgamation that formed the Florey Neuroscience Institutes; he became Chair of the Australian Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) and was a director of the ASX-listed diagnostics company Cogstate Limited. He was Executive Chair of the educational software company Stile Education, Chair of Manhattan Investment Group, Chief Technology Officer of Better Place Australia and Chair of Speedpanel Australia.
Alan was the 2016 Victorian of the Year and the recipient of the Mountbatten Medal (UK). A winner of the Clunies Ross Award for facilitating international neuroscience research, he is committed to science education. He co-founded Cosmos Magazine, which in addition to magazine publishing operates a secondary schools science education program. At ATSE, he led the development and implementation of the STELR program for secondary school science, which has been adopted in more than 600 Australian schools. As Chief Scientist he has led the development of the STARportal information web site for extracurricular STEM activities.
Alan also established the Australian Course in Advanced Neuroscience to train early career neuroscientists.
Professor Jef Boeke The Institute for Systems Genetics at NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, USA
Professor Jef Boeke is known for his foundational work on mechanistic and genomic aspects of retrotransposition. His lab develops new technologies in genetics, genomics and synthetic biology. He elucidated a major form of mobile DNA, based on reverse transcription of RNA. He coined the term “retrotransposition” to describe this process, common to virtually all eukaryotic genomes and now studied by a worldwide scientific community. His ‘systems-level’ studies helped elucidate intricate molecular mechanisms involved in retrotransposition in yeasts, mice and humans. In the exciting new area of Synthetic Biology, Jef is using yeast as a platform for exploring the construction of fully synthetic chromosomes for practical and theoretical studies. He leads an international team to synthesize an engineered version of the yeast genome, Sc2.0, the first synthetic eukaryotic genome, and a consortium to explore the design and synthesis of even larger genomes. He founded and directs the Institute for Systems Genetics at NYU Langone Health.
Professor Brenda Andrews University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Professor Brenda Andrews is the Charles H. Best Chair of Medical Research, Director of the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. Brenda completed her PhD in Medical Biophysics (with Paul Sadowski) at the University of Toronto, and postdoctoral training in genetics with the late Dr Ira Herskowitz at the University of California San Francisco. In 1991, Brenda was recruited to the Department of Medical Genetics (now Molecular Genetics) at the University of Toronto. She became Chair of the Department in 1999, a position she held for five years before assuming a position as Chair of the Banting & Best Department of Medical Research and as the inaugural Director of the Donnelly Centre. Brenda's current research interests include analysis of genetic interaction networks in budding yeast and mammalian cells, using high through-put genetics platforms that include high content microscopy for systematic analysis of cell biological phenotypes. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada, an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology.
Professor Floyd Romesberg The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA
Professor Floyd Romesberg received a BS and MS in chemistry from The Ohio State University, and a PhD in physical organic chemistry from Cornell University. He was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley with Peter Schultz, and in 1998 joined the faculty at The Scripps Research Institute, where he is currently Professor of Chemistry.
Floyd's research laboratory applies organic chemistry, microbiology, non-linear optical spectroscopy, and genetics, to study different aspects of evolution. Of particular significance is his work to expand the genetic alphabet and code through the development of a third DNA base pair that relies on hydrophobicity as opposed to hydrogen bonding for selective pairing.
Floyd has been recognised by several awards including the Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award, the NSF CAREER Award, the Discover Magazine Technology Innovation Award, the ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award, and the Royal Society of Chemistry’s 2018 Bioorganic Chemistry Award. His research has been funded by NIH, NSF, Office of Naval Research, and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Floyd is also a scientific founder of several biotech companies, including Achaogen, Inc., RQx Inc., and Synthorx, Inc.
Professor John Glass J. Craig Venter Institute, San Diego, California, USA
Professor John Glass is a Professor and leader of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) Synthetic Biology and Bioenergy Group. His expertise is in molecular biology, microbial pathogenesis, RNA virology, and microbial genomics. John is part of the Venter Institute team that created the first bacterial cell with a chemically synthesized genome and a bacterial cell with a synthetic genome encoding only the essential gene set needed for life. In reaching this milestone the Venter Institute scientists developed the fundamental techniques of the new field of synthetic genomics including genome transplantation and genome assembly. John was also leader of the JCVI project that rapidly made synthetic influenza virus vaccine strains in collaboration with Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc. and Synthetic Genomics, Inc. At the JCVI he has also led the bacterial outer membrane vesicle based vaccine, genome transplantation, and Mycoplasma genitalium minimal genome projects, and projects studying other mycoplasma and ureaplasma species. John and his Venter Institute colleagues are now using synthetic biology and synthetic genomics approaches developed at the JCVI to create cells and organelles with redesigned genomes to make microbes that can produce biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and industrially valuable molecules. John is a founding members of the Build-A-Cell program to create synthetic cells, and member of the Global Viral Network Scientific Leadership Board.
Prior to joining the JCVI, John spent five years in the Infectious Diseases Research Division of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. There, he was a member of the hepatitis C virology group and a microbial genomics group (1998-2003). He was part of the Lilly and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. team that developed Incivek, one of the first drugs to cure hepatitis C virus.
John earned his undergraduate (Biology) and graduate degrees (Genetics) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His PhD work was on RNA virus genetics in the laboratory of Gail Wertz. He was on the faculty and did postdoctoral fellowships in the Microbiology Department of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in polio virology with Casey Morrow and mycoplasma pathogenesis with Gail Cassell (1990-1998).
Professor Christina Smolke Stanford University, California, USA
Professor Christina Smolke's research program focuses on developing modular genetic platforms for programming information processing and control functions in living systems, resulting in transformative technologies for engineering, manipulating, and probing biological systems. She has pioneered the design and application of a broad class of RNA molecules, called RNA devices, that process and transmit user-specified input signals to targeted protein outputs, thereby linking molecular computation to gene expression. This technology has been extended to efficiently construct multi-input devices exhibiting various higher-order information processing functions, demonstrating combinatorial assembly of many information processing, transduction, and control devices from a smaller number of components. Her laboratory is applying these technologies to addressing key challenges in cellular therapeutics, targeted molecular therapies, and green biosynthesis strategies.
Associate Professor Farren Isaacs Yale University, Connecticut, USA
Farren Isaacs is Associate Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Systems Biology at Yale University. He received a BSE in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania and PhD in Biomedical Engineering-Bioinformatics at Boston University, where he pioneered the development of synthetic RNAs capable of probing and programming cellular function. As a research fellow in genetics at Harvard, he invented enabling technologies for genome engineering. His research is focused on the development of genome engineering technologies to construct alternative genetic codes and for global reprogramming of cellular behavior to uncover new biological phenomena and expand the functions of living systems with applications in energy supply, materials science, environmental health, and medicine. He has been named a “rising young star of science” by Genome Technology Magazine, a Beckman Young Investigator by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation and recipient of a Young Professor award from DuPont.
Professor Bert Poolman University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
Bert was trained in bioenergetics and microbiology and moved to biochemistry and biophysics in later years. Central questions in his research are: i) how do molecules permeate biological membranes? and ii) how can one control solute fluxes and thereby the volume and physicochemistry of the cell? Bert has a track record in vectorial biochemistry, including membrane transport and cellular osmoregulation as well as the development of innovative technologies in membrane biology. He has advanced the field of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) and secondary active transporters by combining functional and structural studies. His group is also credited with several methodological advances, including the expression and quality control of membrane proteins, which are crucial for the in vitro reconstitution of cellular function and microscopy analysis of translocation processes. His main current research areas include:
• Bacterial cell-volume regulation: elucidation of the homeostatic mechanisms that control the physicochemistry of the cell;
• Synthetic cells: bottom up construction of functional far-from-equilibrium systems for metabolic energy conservation and development of protein networks for physicochemical homeostasis;
• Traffic of membrane proteins: understanding of the targeted delivery, localization and energetics of nutrient transporters in the plasma membrane of yeast.
Bert is editor of the Journal of Molecular Biology. He is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), focus area leader of the excellence centre Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, and principal investigator and program leader in the national gravitation program to build synthetic cells (BaSyC). In 2015 he was awarded an ERC Advanced grant.
Associate Professor Danielle Tullman Ercek Northwestern University, Illinois, USA
Danielle Tullman-Ercek is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University. Her research focuses on building biomolecular devices for a wide range of applications, including bioenergy, living batteries, biomaterials, biosensors, biomanufacturing in resource-limited environments, and drug delivery. She is particularly interested in engineering multi-protein complexes, such as virus capsids and the machines that transport proteins and small molecules across cellular membranes. Danielle received her BSc in Chemical Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and her PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She carried out postdoctoral research at the University of California San Francisco and the Joint Bioenergy Institute, while a member of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In 2009, she joined the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering faculty at the University of California Berkeley, where she held the Charles Wilke Endowed Chair of Chemical Engineering and later the Merck Chair of Biochemical Engineering. In 2016, she moved her lab to Northwestern University, where she is also a Searle Scholar. Danielle is a member of the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, the recently launched NU Center for Synthetic Biology, and was awarded an NSF CAREER award for her work on the construction of bacterial organelles using protein membranes.
Professor Lars Steinmetz Stanford University, California, USA
Dr Lars Steinmetz is a Professor of Genetics at Stanford University, Co-Director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center, and Senior Scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). His laboratories have a strong track record in developing and applying cutting-edge experimental, statistical, and computational methods in genomics. Many of the technologies he has pioneered have since become gold-standards that are widely applied by others. Lars holds a PhD in Genetics from Stanford University, a bachelor of science degree from Yale University, and opened his lab at the age of just 27. He has received an ERC Advanced Investigator grant twice and was awarded the Ira Herskowitz award in 2016 for his for outstanding contributions in the field of yeast research in the last 20 years. Beyond his research endeavours, Lars directs graduate admissions of the Department of Genetics at Stanford, as well as the Stanford-EMBL Life Science Alliance, a formal collaboration between two leading institutions. Lars is a consultant and board member of several companies, a founder of the company Sophia Genetics, currently the world’s largest clinical genomics network, and Levitas.
Associate Professor Debra Mathews Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, Maryland, USA
Associate Professor Debra Mathews is the Assistant Director for Science Programs for the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Debra earned her PhD in genetics from Case Western Reserve University, where she also earned a concurrent Masters in bioethics. She completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in genetics at Johns Hopkins, and the Greenwall Fellowship in Bioethics and Health Policy at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities. She has also spent time at the Genetics and Public Policy Center, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. Debra’s academic work focuses on ethics and policy issues raised by emerging biotechnologies, with particular focus on genetics, stem cell science, neuroscience and synthetic biology.
Dr Tom Ellis Imperial College London, London, UK
Dr Tom Ellis is a Reader leading research in synthetic biology and synthetic genome engineering in the Department of Bioengineering. He his an author of over 30 publications in synthetic biology including work in Nature Methods, Nature Biotechnology, PNAS, Science and Nature Reviews. He is leader of the UK project to build synthetic yeast chromosome XI for the international Sc2.0 project. His research focuses on developing the foundational tools for accelerating, automating and scaling design-led synthetic biology, focusing on research projects in yeast (S. cerevisiae) and E. coli model organisms, as well as industrially-relevant microbes such as Acetobacter, Geobacillus and Bacillus.
Dr Leslie Mitchell New York University, New York, USA
Dr Leslie Mitchell received her PhD from the University of Ottawa in Canada and is now a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Jef Boeke at NYU Langone Medical Center. She is interested in chromosome and genome engineering in both yeast and mammalian systems and has worked on all aspects of the international Synthetic Yeast Genome Project, Sc2.0, which aims to build a designer yeast genome from scratch.
Professor Paul Freemont Imperial College London, London, UK
Professor Paul Freemont is the co-founder of the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation (2009) and co-founder and co-director of the National UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology (SynbiCITE; since 2013) at Imperial College London. He is also currently the Head of the Section of Structural Biology in the Department of Medicine at Imperial. His research interests span from understanding the molecular mechanisms of human diseases and infection to developing synthetic biology tools for specific applications. His group has pioneered the use of cell free systems for synthetic biology prototyping and biosensor applications and is the author of over 200 scientific publications. He is a member of European Molecular Biology Organisation and Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and Royal Society of Medicine. He was a co-author of the British Government’s UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap and is a member of the ad hoc technical expert group on synthetic biology for the United Nations Convention for Biological Diversity. He has also appeared regularly on radio and television broadcasts on the subject of synthetic biology and has successfully co-supervised Imperial iGEM teams since 2006.
Dr Erika Szymanski University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Dr Erika Szymanski is a research fellow in Science, Technology, and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her research concerns human-yeast relationships in and outside of synthetic biology, microbial participation in human industry, the development of yeast as a tractable laboratory organism, and the history of the yeast genome sequencing project. Erika also enjoys putting her background in microbiology, English rhetoric and writing studies, and science communication to good use in writing about wine science and technology.
Professor Richard Kitney OBE Imperial College London, London, UK
Professor Richard Kitney OBE is Professor of Biomedical Systems Engineering and Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Imperial College Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation and the UK’s national industrial translation centre for synthetic biology - SynbiCITE. He is a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering and Chaired the Academy’s Inquiry into Synthetic Biology; a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh; and a member of the UK’s Ministerial Leadership Council for Synthetic Biology. He is an author of both of the UK Government’s Roadmaps for synthetic biology. Richard has published over 350 papers in the fields of synthetic biology, mathematical modelling, and biomedical information systems. He is an Academician of the International Academy of Biomedical Engineering and a Fellow of the America Academy of Biomedical Engineering.
Professor Jim Haseloff University of Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
Professor Jim Haseloff is a plant biologist working at the University of Cambridge. His scientific interests are focused on the engineering of plant morphogenesis, using microscopy, molecular genetic, computational and synthetic biology techniques (www.haseloff-lab.org). He and his group have developed new approaches to RNA engineering, quantitative imaging and gene expression in plants, and promote the potential of synthetic biology as a tool to engineer new feedstocks for sustainable use. He directs the OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre, a collaborative venture between the University of Cambridge and the John Innes Institute and Earlham Institute, Norwich (www.openplant.org), and the Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative at the University of Cambridge (www.synbio.cam.ac.uk). He is founder of Biomaker, an international programme for interdisciplinary team-based projects that explore the intersection of electronics, 3D printing, sensor technology, low cost DIY instrumentation and biology. These projects aim to build open technologies and promote development of research skills and collaborations. These resources provide a simple environment for biologists to learn programming and hardware skills, and develop real-world laboratory tools. Further, the Biomaker projects provide a direct route for physical scientists and engineers to get hands-on experience with biological systems (www.biomaker.org).
Professor Junbiao Dai Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Sciences, China
Professor Junbiao Dai is currently the deputy director of Institute of Synthetic Biology (iSynBio), Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Sciences (SIAT), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). He received his Bachelor degree from Nanjing University in 1997, Master of Science in Biology from Tsinghua University in 2000 and PhD in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from Iowa State University in 2006. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine before joining the faculty in School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University in 2011.
His research interests lie in synthetic biology using different model organisms, focusing on development of new technologies for genes synthesis, assembly and synthetic genomics. He’s one of the key members in synthetic yeast consortium (Sc2.0) and has finished the synthesis of the largest yeast chromosome XII. He is the winner of Albert Lehninger Research Award from Johns Hopkins University and the Thousand Talent Program for Young Outstanding Scientists in 2011. In 2017, He was awarded the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars.
Dr Jingchuan Luo New York University, New York, USA
Dr Jingchuan Luo received her PhD in Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Currently she is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Jef Boeke at New York University Langone Health. She is interested in using synthetic biology to study genome organization and evolution. Her current work focuses on yeast karyotype engineering using CRISPR-Cas9, as well as synthetic yeast chromosome assembly (synI and synVIII).
Professor Joel Bader Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
Professor Joel Bader is a Founder of Neochromosome, Inc. and a pioneer in algorithms and cloud computing for genome-scale synthetic biology. Joel joined Johns Hopkins University in 2003 and is currently Professor of Biomedical Engineering with a secondary appointment in Computer Science, Whiting School of Engineering; Interim Director of the High-Throughput Biology Center, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; and a Member of the Institute for Computational Medicine and the Institute for Genetic Medicine. Joel’s research areas include synthetic biology, systems biology, and computational biology, with current and previous funding from NSF (CAREER), NIH, DOE, and DARPA. He received his PhD from UC Berkeley with David Chandler and was a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University. Joel is a co-Founder with Jef D. Boeke of Neochromosome, a biotech using synthetic chromosome technology to create new biomedical products. Prior industrial activities include CuraGen Corp. (1995-2003), where Joel was Director of Bioinformatics and co-invented the Roche/454 Genome Sequencer, the first commercially successful next-generation DNA sequencing technology.
Professor Kathryn North AM University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Professor Kathryn North AM is Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the David Danks Professor of Child Health Research at the University of Melbourne.
She is trained as a physician, neurologist and clinical geneticist and, in 1994, was awarded a doctorate for research in neurogenetics. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Harvard Genetics Program.
Kathryn is a national and international leader in Genomic medicine. In 2014, she was appointed as Co-Chair of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health – a collaborative network of over 400 organisations across over 45 countries funded by the NIH and the Wellcome Trust (genomicsandhealth.org). Commencing in 2016, she leads an NHMRC-funded national network of over 40 institutions - the Australian Genomics Health Alliance (AGHA). The goal of AGHA is to provide evidence and practical strategies for the implementation of genomic medicine in the Australian health system.
Kathryn has received a number of awards including the GSK Australia Award for Research Excellence (2011), the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research (2012) and Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to medicine in the field of neuromuscular and neurogenetics research (2012). In 2012, Kathryn was appointed Chair of the National Health and Medical Research Council Research Committee and in 2014 was appointed as a Foundation fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science. She chairs the International Advisory Board of the Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (UK) and is a member of the Board of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
Professor Birger Lindberg Møller University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg C, Denmark
Birger is the Professor in Plant Biochemistry, University of Copenhagen, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Section for Plant Biochemistry, (since 1990), Director of UNIK Synthetic Biology, one of four “Centres of Excellence” established in Denmark by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (since 2010), Scientific head of bioSYNergy, the 2016 UCPH funds (since 2013), and is the Director of Villum Research Center for Plant Plasticity (since 2013).
Professor Aleksandra Filipovska The University of Western Australia, Western Australia, Australia
Professor Aleksandra Filipovska received her PhD in 2002 from the University of Otago, New Zealand. From 2003-2005 she was a NZ Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Fellow at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge (UK). In 2006 she relocated to Australia as a NHMRC Howard Florey Fellow and established her research group at the Perkins Institute for Medical Research. She was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow until 2013 and currently she is a NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and Professor at the University of Western Australia. Her research interests are in the regulation of gene expression by RNA-binding proteins in health and disease. In addition, her research group uses next generation technologies and synthetic biology to understand the mechanisms driving gene expression, and to develop models of diseases and therapeutics.
Associate Professor Yasunori Aizawa Tokyo Institute of Technology, Kanagawa Pref, Japan
Associate Professor Yasunori Aizawa holds a PhD in Pharmaceutical Science from Kyoto University. He undertook postdoctoral positions at Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University before moving to the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he is an Associate Professor in the School of Life Science and Technology. His research interests are GP-Light: reducing size and redundancy to create the simplest human genome in cells; Technology development for GP-Light; and Identification, functional characterization and industrial transfer of small proteins encoded in ‘non-coding’ regions of the human genome (new gene hunting).
Dr Kate Fairley-Grenot Director - AgriFutures Australia, Australia
Dr Kate Fairley-Grenot is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, with a Science & Technology Policy Masters from the University of Sussex in addition to her PhD in Biophysics from the University of Sydney. For the past 25 years, Kate has pursued her scientific interests as a management consultant, initially with Coopers & Lybrand, and through service to a succession of Boards, several by Ministerial appointment. Much of Kate’s work has focused on the development of bio-based industries – including as a former Director of Australia’s Grape & Wine R&D Corporation, as Chair of Australia’s Rural Research and Development Council, and currently as a Director of AgriFutures Australia. Kate was among the first plant cell patch clampers, working with Sarah Assmann at Harvard University to demonstrate in Vicia and Zea that G-proteins can regulate ion channels in plants as well as animals. Her current research draws on mid-career study at the Australian Securities Institute and focuses on the nexus between research systems and finance systems - globally and at the micro level - with a goal of appreciating both public and private sector drivers of ‘biofutures’.
Dr Rick Johnson Global Helix LLC, USA
Dr Rick Johnson focuses on integrating policy and law with science, engineering, Big Data, and biomedicine to drive research and innovation and to enable problem-oriented solutions to global challenges. His current interests include: (1) synthetic biology, the engineering of biology, and the industrialization of biology; (2) the bioeconomy and next-generation production economy; (3) neuroscience and brain health, especially Alzheimer’s; and (4) policy issues for convergence, international S&T, and Big Data.
Rick is the CEO and founder of Global Helix LLC, a thought leadership and innovative strategic positioning firm. After 30 years, Rick retired as Senior Partner at Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington, D.C., where he represented many of the leading research universities, foundations, and innovative multinational companies about enabling basic research, international collaborations, innovation strategies, and public-private partnerships through innovative approaches to law and policy.
Johnson is a member of the Board on Life Sciences at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the NAS Synthetic Biology Leadership Forum, and serves as Chairman of the NAS Bioeconomy initiative. He is a member of several other NAS initiatives: biomedical innovation and precision medicine; convergence and next-generation infrastructures; synthetic biology and the industrialization of biology; the BRAIN initiative; and the intersection of science and security issues.
He also serves as the Chairman of the BIAC Technology & Innovation Committee at the OECD, and he recently was named one of the 14 global members of the new OECD Global Advisory Council for Science, Technology, and Innovation. In addition, Rick is the Chairman of Brown’s Biology & Medicine Council and is a member of the boards for UC-Berkeley SynBerc, the Stanford BioFab and BioBricks Foundation, and the iGEM Foundation for global education. For many years, Rick served on the MIT Corporation Committee, and numerous university-industry boards.
In addition to receiving his Juris Doctor degree from the Yale Law School where he was Editor of the Yale Law Journal, he received his M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was a National Science Foundation National Fellow and MIT distinguished young scholar, and his undergraduate degree with highest honors from Brown University.
Lorraine Chiroiu AusBiotech Ltd, Victoria, Australia
Lorraine leads AusBiotech as its Chief Executive Officer and managing director and has worked as a dedicated advocate for the biotechnology sector since joining AusBiotech almost a decade ago. In this role she works closely with public policy impacting the life sciences sector at state and Federal levels, including economic development, tax incentives, patent protection, medical research and its commercialisation.
Lorraine works with the broad biotechnology community and AusBiotech’s 3,000 members to inform and support industry development and has previously held the roles of Deputy CEO, Chief Industry Affairs Officer and National Communications and Media Manager at AusBiotech.
Prior to joining AusBiotech, Lorraine has worked in corporate and public affairs roles for a multinational biopharmaceutical company, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the University of Melbourne and for a (mental) health consumer organisation as an advocate.
Lorraine has an undergraduate degree in public relations, majoring in journalism, a postgraduate diploma in marketing management, an MBA and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
She currently sits on the International Council of Biotechnology Associations, the Federal Government’s Clinical Trials Collaborative Forum and the Global Talent Scheme (GTS) start-up advisory panel, the University of Melbourne’s Master of Biotechnology Advisory Group, is a Director of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia, Deputy-Chair of the Australia China Business Council’s (VIC) Health and Medical Research Committee, on the Early Phase Clinical Trials Oversight Committee for NSW Health and sits on Swinburne University’s Advisory Board for the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology.
Professor Hiroshi Takagi Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Nara, Japan
Professor Hiroshi Takagi is Professor at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology. After he received the degree of MSc in immunology at Nagoya University (1982) he worked at Ajinomoto Co. Inc. as a research scientist (1982 to 1995). In 1986 he studied at State University of New York at Stony Brook under Professor Masayori Inouye, and received his PhD at the University of Tokyo under Prof. Takahisha Ohta in 1988 for protein engineering of the Bacillus subtilis subtilisin E. He was promoted to Chief Biochemist for protein engineering of microbial enzymes for industrial use and development of frozen dough. In 1995, Hiroshi was appointed Associate Professor at Fukui Prefectural University. He then started his major fundamental research on novel stress-tolerant mechanisms of yeast, focusing on amino acid metabolism and ubiquitin system, and their applications to industrial yeast breeding. He was promoted to full Professor in 2001 and moved to Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) in 2006. The Takagi lab is involved in Applied Molecular Microbiology including yeast projects and the bacterial cysteine/sulfur metabolism. He is currently Chair of the International Commission on Yeasts (ICY). Hiroshi was the recipient of the ‘Achievement Award of the Society for Biotechnology, Japan’ in 2017.
Adjunct Associate Professor Sharon Mascall-Dare University of South Australia, South Australia, Australia
Dr Sharon Mascall-Dare is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster specialising in science, innovation and defence. During her thirty-year career, Sharon has worked for the BBC, the ABC and The Age, and completed a PhD in Communication in 2013. Today, she is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Creative Industries at the University of South Australia and is actively engaged in communication strategy and research.
Dr Daniel Schindler University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Dr Daniel Schindler did his PhD at the Center for Synthetic Microbiology (Synmikro) in Marburg, Germany. During his PhD he worked on synthetic chromosomes in E. coli to study chromosome maintenance systems. In March 2017, he joined the group of Prof. Patrick Yizhi Cai at the University of Edinburgh as a Postdoctoral Research Associate, and his work is focused on the tRNA neochromosome of the Sc2.0 project. In Autumn 2017, the group moved to the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Manchester where Daniel is continuing the deep characterisation of the neochromosome.
Assistant Professor Alison McLennan University of Canberra, ACT, Australia
Assistant Professor Alison McLennan is an Assistant Professor in the School of Law and Justice, Faculty of Business, Government and Law at the University of Canberra. She completed her PhD on the regulation of synthetic biology at the Australian National University. Alison has also worked in legal policy in the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department and as a Judge's Tipstaff in the NSW Land and Environment Court. She researches intellectual property, environmental law and the regulation of emerging technologies. She is interested in how we can not only manage the risks, but also maximise the potential benefits of new technologies.
Professor Lars Nielsen The University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia
Professor Lars Nielsen is Professor and Chair of Biological Engineering at The University of Queensland, Senior Group Leader at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering & Nanotechnology (AIBN), and Scientific Director at the Novo Nordisk Center for Biosustainability, DTU, Denmark. He is Director of the Queensland Bioplatforms Australia Node, which provides systems and synthetic biology support to design and build cell factories for the production of fuels, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
His core research interest is modelling of cellular metabolism and his team has made many contributions to the formulation and use of genome-scale models. He recently received a Novo Nordisk Foundation Laureate Research Grant to develop large-scale, mathematical models to explore and explain the molecular basis for homeostasis – the self-regulating processes evolved to maintain metabolic equilibrium. Studying homeostasis is relevant for the understanding and treatment of complex diseases, particular with the emergence of personalised medicine. It is equally important when we seek to repurpose the cellular machinery for the production of desired chemicals, materials and pharmaceuticals.
Associate Professor Claudia Vickers CSIRO and The University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia
Associate Professor Claudia Vickers holds dual roles as Director of the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform and Group Leader in the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at The University of Queensland (UQ). She completed her PhD in cereal crop biotechnology at CSIRO Plant Industry and UQ in 2004. She held post-doctoral and Visiting Scientist positions at Essex and Lancaster Universities in the UK 2004-2007, where she worked on abiotic stress and the metabolic regulation and physiological function of volatile isoprenoids in plants. She returned to UQ in 2007, joining the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to expand her research program into microbial metabolic engineering. Since then she has headed a group focussed on converting agricultural biomass to industrially-useful biochemicals using advanced synthetic and systems biology approaches. Since January 2017 A/Professor Vickers has held a joint appointment with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to lead the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform (SynBioFSP), a $30 M research and development program aimed at expanding Australia’s capability in synthetic biology. She is also on the Executive of Synthetic Biology Australia as Immediate Past President.
Professor Ian Paulsen Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Professor Ian Paulsen is a Distinguished Professor at Macquarie University and Deputy Director of the Macquarie Biomolecular Discovery and Design Centre. He is an ARC Laureate Fellow and an ISI Highly Cited Researcher with more than 250 publications. He received a PhD from Monash University and was an NHMRC C.J. Martin Fellow at the University of California at San Diego. He then took a faculty position at the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), where he led many microbial genome sequencing projects. Ian returned to Australia in 2007 as a Professor at Macquarie University and received a Life Science Research Award from the NSW Office of Science and Medical Research. He is the founder and Director of the new Synthetic Biology Laboratory at Macquarie University.
Professor Oliver Rackham The University of Western Australia, Western Australia, Australia
Professor Oliver Rackham gained his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Otago, New Zealand. In 2003 he relocated to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, UK, as an MRC Career Development Fellow, working with Professor Jason Chin on re-engineering the genetic code. Oliver established his own group at UWA in 2006 as an NHMRC Peter Doherty Fellow. Since then he has been awarded a Wenner-Gren Foundation Fellowship, an ARC Future Fellowship, the Marshall Medal, and a Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers. Oliver's research has been influential in shaping the field of synthetic biology: he pioneered an 'orthogonal' approach to create synthetic cellular networks and created synthetic ribosomes and artificial RNA-binding proteins. His work was described as one of the "seminal achievements for synthetic biology" (Faculty of 1000) and resulted in his admission to the European Inventor Hall of Fame in 2013.
Nadia Levin Research Australia, NSW, Australia
Nadia Levin joined Research Australia as its Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director in January 2016. Her career has included working across a number of complex and highly regulated environments, often those subject to high public scrutiny.
Research Australia is the national peak body for health and medical research. This unique position enables it to advocate for researchers, patients and funders alike, using its convening power to position health and medical research as a significant driver of a healthy population and healthy economy.
Previously, Nadia was an Executive Leader at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. Her portfolio included Government, International and External Relations.
Prior to this, Nadia held roles that saw her working in both the public and private sectors, as well as in an advisory role to a federal government minister. Nadia was also a Director of the Australian Synchrotron Board, is a current Board member of New Zealander's for Health Research and a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Professor Ian O'Hara Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia
Professor Ian O'Hara is a Principal Research Fellow specialising in bioenergy, biofuels and biorefining at Queensland University of Technology. Ian’s research interests include the development, process engineering, scale-up and techno-economic assessment of new bioproduct technologies. In 2016, Ian was appointed by the Queensland Government as the Queensland Biofutures Industry Envoy. As the Envoy, Ian provides strategic advice to government and assists in securing domestic and international investment within the Biofutures sector. Ian is also a Director of Bioenergy Australia.
Dr Tom Williams Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Dr Tom Williams is a CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Fellow at Macquarie University. He completed his PhD at The University of Queensland and undergraduate education (BSc, MSc) at The University of Waikato (New Zealand). Tom's research utilises synthetic biology, laboratory evolution, and systems biology to elucidate novel biological design principles. He is also part of the international 'Yeast 2.0' consortium, which is aimed at designing, building, and testing chemically synthesized yeast genomes.
Dr Jee Loon Foo National University of Singapore, Singapore
Jee Loon Foo received his PhD in Biological Chemistry from the Australian National University in 2009. He had postdoctoral training in protein engineering and metabolic engineering at the Nanyang Technological University and University of California, Berkeley. Currently, he is a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore in the NUS Synthetic Biology for Clinical and Technological Innovation (SynCTI). His research interests lie in the understanding and engineering of biological systems at the interface of chemistry and biology to confer novel functionalities.
Dr Anthony Borneman The Australian Wine Research Institute, South Australia, Australia
Dr Anthony Borneman is a Principal Research Scientist at The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI). Anthony joined the AWRI after a four year Postdoctoral position at Yale University where he was performing whole genome comparative network analysis of yeast species using chromatin immunoprecipitation microarrays. At the AWRI, Anthony is responsible for the genomics programs including whole genome assembly, comparative genomics and transcriptomic analysis.
Dr Ross Cloney Nature Communications, UK
Dr Ross Cloney is a senior editor at Nature Communications, handling manuscripts in the fields of synthetic biology and genome engineering. In addition, he has been responsible for manuscripts in the areas of genome-wide association studies, molecular biology and therapeutic biotechnology. Before joining Nature Communications, his previous postdoctoral work focused on DNA damage and repair pathways including telomere maintenance and double-strand break repair. He can often be found tweeting about synthetic biology as @rosscloney
Dr Josh Wodak University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Josh's research concerns the ethics and efficacy of technoscientific conservation in the Anthropocene. His work critically appraises the fields of Synthetic Biology, Assisted Evolution, and Climate Engineering, drawing on the Environmental Humanities and Science & Technology Studies. He is currently a Chief Investigator on the ARC Discovery Project Understanding Australia in The Age of Humans: Localising the Anthropocene; a member of the Andrew Mellon Australia-Pacific Observatory in Environmental Humanities, Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney; and a Lecturer at UNSW Art & Design.
Dr Xian Fu BGI-Shenzhen, China
Dr Xian Fu earned his doctorate degree from University of Florida. He did his postdoctoral work at Yale University. As a postdoc with Dr Dieter Söll, he focused on developing novel ways for selenoprotein biosynthesis by genetic code expansion. He later joined BGI-Shenzhen as an associate research fellow. His main research topics at BGI-shenzhen incudes: genome design and synthesis, non-canonical amino acid incorporation by genetic code expansion, controllable cell function, directed evolution. So far, he has published 16 peer-reviewed articles, including MBio, RNA Biol, FEBS Lett as the first author, and Angew Chem Int Ed Engl, FEBS J, Bioresour Technol as the co-author.