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.

Deanne Aitken

Deanne Aitken

Human Resources Manager

A strategic, senior business partner with more than 25 years experience in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, focused on delivering improved business outcomes and supporting leaders to enable high performance culture. Skilled in the suite of HR/ER/OD services with extensive experience in talent acquisition, organisational design, strategy, employee engagement, cultural transformation, employee relations and leadership coaching.

As the Human Resources Manager, I lead and manage the Institute’s HR function, partnering with the executive and leadership teams to help shape an inclusive and impactful culture, where staff and students are engaged and can flourish.

Dr Conor J Kearney

Dr Conor J Kearney

Head, Molecular Immunology Laboratory

My lab uses cutting-edge technologies including genome-wide genetic screens (CRISPR/Cas) to study tumour-lymphocyte interactions with the ultimate goal of identifying new and improved cancer immunotherapy approaches.

I am a Victorian Cancer Agency (VCA) fellow and Head of the Molecular Immunology Laboratory at ONJCRI. I hold honorary appointments at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University. After obtaining my PhD in Molecular Biology at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Ireland, I took up postdoctoral studies at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, where I studied genetic, transcriptional and epigenetic determinants of anti-tumor immune responses. During my postdoctoral appointments I made several important discoveries relating to mechanisms of tumour immune evasion, tumour cell death and T cell differentiation trajectories in cancer (e.g Kearney et al 2021, Science Advances; Kearney et al 2018, Science Immunology; Lelliott et al 2021, Cancer Discovery; Freeman et al 2019, Cell Reports; Kearney et al 2017, Cell Death & Differentiation.

My newly established laboratory (2022) uses a range of cutting-edge, molecular immunology, cell biology and genome-wide drug and genetic screening approaches to identify tumour cell vulnerabilities to cytotoxic lymphocytes for the identification of new cancer immunotherapies.


Khay-Lin Teoh

Dr Khay-Lin Teoh

Chief Operating Officer
Company Secretary

As Chief Operating Officer and Company Secretary, Khay-Lin leads and manages the Institute’s Research Support function and staff to facilitate the delivery of quality services which support the Institute in meeting its strategic, operational, compliance, and risk management objectives.

With a background combining governance, business management and science, Khay-Lin takes an analytical and rational approach to management and brings a wealth of experience and insight to the position. His skills and experience include governance, strategic planning and risk management, financial management, human resource management, business planning and development, procurement and contract negotiations, and research management.

Khay-Lin has worked in both the for-profit sector (ASX listed company) and for-purpose sector (higher education, medical research) and for the last 16 years in the medical research industry.

He has a PhD, MBA and is a member of the AICD.

Adam Horsburgh

Adam Horsburgh

Adam currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Austin Health.  With extensive health sector management experience in Victoria as well as in the UK National Health Service (NHS).  Adam has held senior policy and advisory roles with the Victorian Government, including the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Premier and Cabinet.  Prior to joining Austin Health, Adam was Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer at Melbourne Health.  He is also a Director of the Summer Foundation, Florey Institute of Neurosciences and Mental Health, Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Dr Ajithkumar Vasanthakumar

Dr Ajithkumar Vasanthakumar

Head, Tissue and Tumour Immunity laboratory

I investigate the immune ecosystem of tissues and tumours to discover mechanisms that could be targeted to revert immune suppression for the treatment of solid tumours.

I am a NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow and Head of the Tissue and Tumour Immunity Laboratory. I have honorary appointments at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University. After obtaining my PhD in Biotechnology, I took up postdoctoral studies in immunology initially at the Burnet Institute, Melbourne and subsequently at WEHI and Peter Doherty Institute, Melbourne. During my postdoctoral stint, I made several landmark discoveries that revealed the tissue adaptation mechanisms of regulatory T cells (Vasanthakumar et al, Nature 2020; Vasanthakumar et al, Nature Immunology 2015).

My current work aims to understand the homeostatic requirements of regulatory T cells in different solid tumours and their crosstalk with stromal cells. The overarching theme of my research program in ONJCRI is to uncover the mechanistic underpinnings of immune suppression in tumours. My laboratory is supported by funding from NHMRC and Cancer Council Victoria.