Prof Theo Farrell

Prof Theo Farrell

Vice-Chancellor and President La Trobe University

Professor Theo Farrell commenced as Vice-Chancellor and President of La Trobe University in February 2024. He brings a deep commitment to advancing academic excellence, building inclusive communities, forging external partnerships, and leading transformative change.

Prior to joining La Trobe, Professor Farrell held a number of leadership roles including Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Students), Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), and Executive Dean of Law, Humanities and the Arts, all at the University of Wollongong, and Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at City, University of London. From 2006 to 2016, he held a chair in online learning at King’s College London. At UOW, City and King’s, Professor Farrell led numerous initiatives to develop research capacities, innovate learning and teaching, and enhance student experience.

Professor Farrell has held ten UK research council awards. His most recent book, Unwinnable: Britain’s War in Afghanistan (Vintage 2021), was shortlisted for three national book awards and selected book of the year by The Sunday Times. Professor Farrell is a champion of real-world impact from academic research. A leading expert on the conflict in Afghanistan, he acted as strategic advisor to the UK government and the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, and participated in track II talks with the Taliban.

Professor Farrell is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK), Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales, Visi􀆟ng Professor at King’s College London, and past President of the British International Studies Association.


Dr Tracy Leong

Dr Tracy Leong

Clinician Scientist, Tumour Immunology Laboratory

Dr Leong is the Director of Interventional Pulmonology at Austin Health in Melbourne and Respiratory Clinical Lead in Lung Cancer. She is a senior clinical lecturer in the University of Melbourne and is a Clinician Scientist at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, and is a founder of the TRACKER lung cancer biobank. She is the Chair of the Lung Cancer Working Party for the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand, and Chair of the Early NSCLC Group in the Thoracic Oncology Group of Australasia. Her key interests are in optimisation of bronchoscopic lung cancer samples for translational research, and in the discovery of novel biomarkers and therapeutic approaches to overcome immunotherapy resistance.


Dr Christine De Nardo

Dr Christine De Nardo

Chief Operating Officer

As Chief Operating Officer, I lead and manage the Institute’s Research Support function and staff, which includes Finance, Procurement, Legal, Human Resources, Information Technology, Grants, Communications and Marketing, Philanthropy and Fundraising, Commercialisation and Laboratory and Facilities Management. With a strong focus on quality, productivity, and stakeholder relationships, my role is to facilitate the delivery of quality services which support the Institute in meeting its strategic, operational, compliance, and risk management objectives.

I completed my bachelor’s degree (Hons) in Biological Sciences at La Trobe University and a PhD in Life Sciences at The University of Melbourne. I bring over 15 years of experience to the role of COO, in research, operational management and leadership; across academic, medical research, and biotechnology sectors in both Australia and Germany.

My expertise spans a wide range of operational and managerial responsibilities including human resources, budgeting and finance, regulatory compliance, communications, planning, and resourcing. I have a strong track record in coordinating and managing complex, collaborative research programs, securing significant funding, and establishing strong partnerships within the industry.

Prior to joining the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, I was Manager for the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health and Sub-Faculty of Clinical and Molecular Medicine. I have also held the position of General Manager at a biotechnology start up, oNKo-innate Pty Ltd, where I oversaw substantial growth.


A/Prof Sweet Ping Ng

A/Prof Sweet Ping Ng

Clinician Scientist, Tumour Targeting Lab

I am a consultant radiation oncologist specializing in head and neck, brain and upper gastrointestinal cancers such as esophagus, liver, and pancreas.

Along with a multidisciplinary team, we established the head and neck stereotactic radiation therapy program at the Department of Radiation Oncology, Austin Health.

My research focuses on the development and implementation of evidence-based adaptive, ‘precision oncologic therapy’ based on novel blood and imaging biomarkers (e.g. CT/ PET/ MRI). Using these biomarkers, I hope to improve risk stratification, enhance adaptive therapy techniques, and improve radiation dose targeting and treatment personalization to maximize treatment outcomes whilst minimizing treatment-related toxicities.


Dr Sonja Flott

Dr Sonja Flott

Chief Business Development Officer

I lead and manage the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute’s identification, development, and protection of intellectual property to facilitate innovation and commercialisation, which enables the Institute’s mission to discover and develop breakthrough cancer therapies.

I have a scientific background in cancer research, holding a PhD from the University of Dundee. Following this, I pursued postdoctoral research at the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, specialising in genome stability maintenance, DNA repair and DNA damage response signalling.

Furthermore, I have experience in business development across both industry and academia, 8 years of expertise in business development, portfolio management and product development at Abcam plc in Cambridge, and 5 years in commercialisation and business development at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) in Melbourne, focusing on the advancement of immuno-oncology technologies.


Michelle Burke

Michelle Burke 

Michelle Burke is a Non-Executive Director for Cell Therapies Pty Ltd, past Chair of AusBiotech Ltd, and a current member of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.  She also serves as an advisor for Proto Axiom Pty Ltd, an incubator for early stage research commercialisation.  She is a consultant to health-related companies, governments and academia, and a former director at Bristol-Myers Squibb and SmithKline Beecham.


Prof Sarah Ellis

A/Prof Sarah Ellis

Head, ACRF Centre for Imaging the Tumour Environment (CTE)

An important and very enjoyable part of my role is listening to our researchers outline their projects and advising on the best ways in which our state-of-the-art microscopes can benefit them. I take immense pleasure in mentoring our enthusiastic students and talented researchers, supporting them with their research projects and proactively anticipating future needs.

I completed a Master of Science degree at the University of Melbourne before commencing work as a research technologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, where I used histology, live cell imaging, transmission and scanning electron microscopy to investigate the life cycle of large platelet-producing megakaryocytes.

In 1999, I accepted the position as Head of the Centre for Advanced Histology and Microscopy (CAHM), a newly developed platform encompassing histology, optical and electron microscopy and image analysis. Alongside managing CAHM, I subsequently completed a PhD investigating the bone marrow niche of hematopoietic stem cells and, through successful NHMRC grant funding, led my research team exploring the role of polarity proteins in AML and T-ALL.

I joined the ONJCRI in 2020 to consolidate and grow the Microscopy Platform as Head of the ACRF Centre for Imaging the Tumour Environment (CITE).


Damien Bolton

Damien Bolton

Professor Damien Bolton is head of Department of Urology and Professor of Surgery at the University of Melbourne Department of Surgery, Austin Health. Damien trained in Melbourne and at the University of California, San Francisco.

He was the first Australian urologist to be awarded the Bard Silver Medal by the British Association of Urologic Surgeons (BAUS), the first urologist recipient of the John Mitchell Crouch Fellowship from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and received the RACS award for excellence in surgical research in 2014. He has published more than 400 peer reviewed manuscripts.

He has served as Chair of the Cancer Council Victoria committee on Urogenital Cancer and co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Prostate Cancer Coalition, as well as on multiple international guidelines committees. He is currently Treasurer of the Societe International d’Urologie based in Montreal Canada and is Vice President of the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand.


Prof Marco Herold

Prof Marco Herold

Chief Executive Officer, ONJCRI
Head, Genome Engineering and Cancer Modelling Program
Head, Blood Cancer and Immunotherapy Lab
Head, La Trobe University’s School of Cancer Medicine

My vision at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute is to improve treatments and outcomes for cancer patients.

I am excited to lead our staff and students and ensure our people are collaboratively striving to make ground-breaking discoveries that can be translated into the clinic that will benefit cancer patients and deliver maximum benefit to the community.

I am a NHMRC L2 Investigator, an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne, and a former Broomhead Centenary Fellow.

I completed my PhD and first postdoctoral studies at the University of Würzburg, Germany, where I trained in cell death research and mouse genetics. During this time, I worked with the German Pharma Company Taconic Artemis developing methods to establish novel pre-clinical models of disease.

In 2008, I moved to Australia and joined the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) where I served as a Laboratory Head in the Blood Cells and Blood Cancer Division and Head of the Melbourne Genome Editing Centre (MAGEC). My research team specialised in applying CRISPR gene editing techniques to identify critical gene targets required for the development and sustained growth of cancer cells. Recent findings identified DNA repair as fundamental for TP53-mediated tumour suppression (Janic et al., Nature Medicine 2018).

My current research is focused on using advanced genome wide CRISPR screening, including gene activation and base editing in vitro and in vivo (Deng et al., Nature Communications, 2022). At ONJCRI we use these research techniques to amplify the research conducted within all our labs to discover drug resistance factors and targets that enhance immune therapies.

Since joining ONJCRI in 2023, my primary role as CEO of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) is to steer our Institute towards a new phase of growth and impact by achieving our strategic priorities. This includes fostering collaborations both within ONJCRI and with external entities while capitalising on existing strengths, assets, and successes of ONJCRI.


Dr Moritz Eissmann

Dr Moritz Eissmann

Head, Cytokine and Cancer Signalling Group

My research utilizes novel cancer models to understand mechanisms of communication between immune cells and cancer cells to help improve immunotherapy treatments for advanced gastric and colorectal cancer patients.

After receiving my PhD in the field of Pharmaceutical Science, from the Goethe University (Frankfurt Germany), I performed my post-doctoral research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research (WEHI) (2012-2014) and at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (from 2015).

I am currently Head of the newly formed Cytokine and Cancer Signalling Group at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute.

I am a Victorian Cancer Agency (Mid-Career) Fellow and recipient of the AACR-Debbie’s Dream Foundation’s Gastric Cancer Research Award. My research discovered the tumour promoting role of cytokine IL33 in gastric cancer (Nat Com 2019) and I have developed new gastric cancer models, which enable testing of novel immunotherapies against gastric cancer.

My team’s research focuses on understanding the cytokine signalling that drives the crosstalk between the cancer cells and the tumour microenvironment in gastric and colorectal cancer. We continue to establish novel cancer models, including cancer organoids and employ those models to investigate the role of IL33/ST2 as well as IL6/IL11/STAT3 signalling in shaping the tumour microenvironment. We study their impact on cancer progression, metastasis formation and (immune) therapy responses.