Keynote Speakers

Professor Alan Mackay-Sim Tuesday 30 July, 12-1pm 2017 Australian of the Year; Professor Emeritus at Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Griffith University 

Professor Alan Mackay-Sim

Professor Alan Mackay-Sim

Tuesday 30 July, 12-1pm

2017 Australian of the Year; Professor Emeritus at Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Griffith University 

Patient-derived stem cells – drug discovery in brain diseases

After so many years of transgenic animal models, why don’t we have any successful disease-modifying drugs for brain diseases? Why have 100’s of phase III clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease and motor neuron disease failed? Why are we still using drugs to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and not its causes? Why have cancer researchers been so successful in finding new treatments compared to neuroscientists? Perhaps for brain diseases we need to focus on cells, like cancer researchers, rather than brains, like neuroscientists. Patient-derived olfactory neural stem cells, generated from biopsies of the olfactory organ in the nose, give us a new way to understand brain diseases, including “monogenic” diseases (hereditary spastic paraplegia, familial Parkinson’s disease) and polygenic disease (schizophrenia and sporadic Parkinson’s disease). With these cells, we use the various “omics” to link disease-associated cell phenotypes with genetic mutations and use these phenotypes for drug discovery. Patient-derived neurons (from induced pluripotent stem cells) are used to validate disease-associated phenotypes. 

Professor Alan Mackay-Sim

2017 Australian of the Year Alan Mackay-Sim is a neuroscientist and stem cell scientist. His research career has focused on how the sensory neurons in the nose are replaced and regenerated from stem cells. He is a world leader in spinal cord injury research. He led the Brisbane team in a world-first clinical trial in which the patient’s own olfactory cells were transplanted into their injured spinal cord in the first stages of a therapy to treat human paraplegia. Alan established the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research in 2006. He developed an adult stem cell bank from over 300 people with different neurological conditions including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, mitochondrial mutation disorders, hereditary spastic paraplegia, ataxia telangiectasia and motor neuron disease. These stem cells are used to identify the biological bases of neurological diseases using genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and cell function assays and this work is leading to new drug therapies. In 2017 Alan received the Distinguished Achievement award from Australasian Neuroscience Society and in 2018 he was awarded the Neil Hamilton Fairley Medal by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal College of Physicians (Lond) for Outstanding Contribution to Medicine.

Distinguished Professor Patsy Yates

Professor Patsy Yates

Wednesday 31 July, 12-1pm

Institute of Health Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) Queensland University of Technology

Achieving quality palliative care for all

People who are nearing the end of life deserve the best possible health and support services. The ability of our health systems to deliver quality palliative care for all is increasingly challenged by the growing ageing population, more complex disease trajectories, changing social and family structures, and raised community expectations of modern medicine. Major reforms will be required if we are to ensure that all members of our community receive quality end of life care. These reforms will include innovation in the organisation and delivery of health and social care services to ensure they are responsive to changing disease and sociodemographic profiles. The reforms will also require significant investment in capacity building of health professionals and communities, and a rethink of the way in which we enable consumer preferences and choices to be at the centre of care delivery. Strong leadership at all levels will be critical to the success of these reforms and the quality of care provided to those in our community who are dying.

Distinguished Professor Patsy Yates

Distinguished Professor Patsy Yates, PhD, RN, FACN, FAAN is jointly appointed as Head, School of Nursing at Queensland University of Technology, Lead Researcher for the Cancer Nursing Professorial Precinct at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Director for Queensland Health’s state-wide Centre for Palliative Care Research and Education (CPCRE). She has over 30 years’ experience in research, education and clinical practice in cancer and palliative care. She is the immediate Past-President of Palliative Care Australia and is President of the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care.

Patsy is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and has been inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame. She was awarded the 2018 ONS Distinguished Researcher Award at the ONS 43rd Annual Congress in the US.

Professor Caroline Homer

Professor Caroline Homer

Thursday 1 August, 12-1pm

Co-Program Director Maternal and Child Health and Co-Working Group Head Global Women’s and Newborn’s Health, Burnet Institute, Melbourne; Distinguished Professor of Midwifery, University of Technology Sydney

Maternal health – why it matters

When maternal health suffers, so does the health of others. Improving the health of childbearing women is essential for improving their own health and wellbeing and that of their children, families and the community. Pregnancy is a critical time to access women and their families, identify strengths and potential health challenges and support women to be able to start motherhood strong and confident with a healthy baby. In Australia, maternal health generally gets little attention despite 300,000 babies being born each year and the vast majority of babies born in hospitals.

There is now high level evidence that there are a range of models of care and ways of providing maternity services that are good for women and health systems in terms of staff satisfaction and cost effectiveness. These include midwifery continuity of care, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and families where there are still considerable gaps to be addressed. The ability to improve care and services while reducing cost is critical to building, developing and maintaining sustainability in health care.

This presentation will also address a number of other issues that currently affect maternal health in Australia including a persistently high caesarean section rate, little change in rates of stillbirth, a workforce shortage especially in rural and remote settings and a critical need to engage and consult in a meaningful way with consumers.

Professor Caroline Homer

Caroline is Co-Program Director of Women and Children’s Health and Co-Head for the Women’s and Newborn’s Health Working Group at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne. She also continues a long association with the University of Technology Sydney as a Visiting Professor of Midwifery.

Caroline has been involved in the development and evaluation of midwifery and maternal and newborn health services in Australia and in in a number of other countries in the Asia Pacific region, including Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Cambodia and Timor Leste.

Since 2008, she has been the Co-Chair of the Expert Advisory Executive for the development of the National Antenatal Guidelines for the Australian Government’s Department of Health and is a member of WHO’s Executive Guideline Steering Committee – WHO Maternal and Perinatal Health Guidelines.

Professor Mark Morrison

Professor Mark Morrison

Friday 2 August, 12-1pm

Chair & Group Leader Metagenomics, The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute

The gut microbiome – characterising the “x-factor” of Genotype x Environment x Lifestyle interactions affecting our digestive health and well-being?

The microbiome is a new frontier in biomedical research. It is the fusion of the traditional fields of medical microbiology (pathogenesis and epidemiology) with environmental microbiology and ecology (the study of microbial diversity and function in their natural environment). The “omics” era has catalyzed human microbiome research and the emergence of the concept that “gut dysbiosis” is a hallmark of disease. New insights establishing interrelationships between diet, the gut microbiota, and changes in host metabolic and/or immune response have been realised. Animal models have also provided evidence that many diseases once thought to be “non-communicable” are either transmissible, or can be attenuated, via the “transplant” of the gut microbiota. As such, more than a decade of basic research has further shown that the gut microbiome is a functional, dynamic and modifiable interface between our genes, the environment we live in, and the lifestyle and dietary choices we make. However, and despite the optimism for the translation of the microbiome into medicine, much still remains unchartered and uncharacterised within the human microbiome. Indeed, much of the gut microbiome is still genetic and biological “dark matter”: both as genes identified by DNA/RNA sequencing but not yet ascribed functionality, as well as “new” microbes not yet cultured. Here I will provide an overview of our innovations in sampling and microbiome characterisation as part of ongoing clinical studies of digestive diseases and disorders, which aspire to shine light on microbial dark matter; with a view to better understand whether and how the microbiome underlies the pathophysiology of these conditions, and their improved diagnosis and treatment.

Professor Mark Morrison

Mark Morrison joined the University of Queensland in October 2013, located at the Translational Research Institute campus, as chair and principal group leader in microbial biology and metagenomics for the UQ Diamantina Institute. In addition to this role, he now serves as the microbiome science leader for the Translational Research Institute, as well as science lead for gastrointestinal function with the Princess Alexandra Hospital’s Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. During his academic tenure in the USA, he led the team that produced the first genome sequences for Ruminococcus and Prevotella spp., with both genera now widely acknowledged to play a key role in establishing human gut “enterotypes”. His abilities to translate genomic and metagenomic datasets into a sound biological framework include a world-first: the metagenome-directed isolation of a “new” bacterium from a species-rich microbial community. He is Australia’s science representative to the International Human Microbiome Consortium and the Chinese Microbiome Initiative, and serves on a number of institute and industry advisory boards for microbiome research.

Page last updated on: 9 Jul 2019