Transdisciplinary Approaches to Chronic Diseases


Plenary Speakers

Prof Charles Bangham
Imperial College, London

Charles Bangham established a new field of research through his discovery of the virological synapse, a novel mechanism by which a virus propagates, which has resulted in intense research in many laboratories on a range of viral infections.  He pioneered the counterintuitive concept, now widely accepted, that the outcome of a persistent infection is determined not by the magnitude of the host immune response but rather by the efficiency or, as it is now termed, the quality of the pathogen-specific T cell. T-cell quality has become a major focus of research in infectious diseases.  He also discovered T-cell fratricide, showing that the cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) is itself susceptible to CTL-mediated destruction.  His demonstration that HTLV-1-specific T cells are preferentially infected with the virus led directly to the finding of the phenomenon in HIV-1 infection two years later.  These discoveries have made a significant impact on the understanding of the mechanisms of persistent viral infections, which impose an enormous burden of morbidity and mortality worldwide.   


Prof Gabriele Bergers
University of California, San Francisco, USA

Dr. Bergers’ research focuses on revealing the dialogue between the tumor cell compartment and the vascular niche, a microanatomical unit of which the vasculature is an integral component. The vascular niche consists of distinct cell types and specialized matrices that provide signals controlling stem cell proliferation, fate specification, and protection in not only normal tissue, but tumors, as well. Importantly, the vascular niche in tumors is aberrant compared to the vascular niche in normal tissues, since the tumor vasculature is hyperproliferative and abnormal in both structure and function. Moreover, it harbors various distinct inflammatory cells, including bone marrow-derived immune cells, which have been implicated in neovascularization and therapy resistance.


Prof Molly Stevens
Imperial College, London

Molly Stevens is currently Professor of Biomedical Materials and Regenerative Medicine and the Research Director for Biomedical Material Sciences in the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College. She joined Imperial in 2004 after a Postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Professor Robert Langer in the Chemical Engineering Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Prior to this she graduated from Bath University with a First Class Honours degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences and was then awarded a PhD in biophysical investigations of specific biomolecular interactions and single biomolecule mechanics from the Laboratory of Biophysics and Surface Analysis at the University of Nottingham (2000).


International Speakers

Prof Rutledge Ellis-Behnke
University of Heidelberg, Germany

Rutledge Ellis-Behnke is the Director of the Nanomedicine Translational Think Tank at the Medical Faculty Mannheim of the University of Heidelberg in Germany. In addition, he holds affiliate faculty positions at MIT, as well as Wake Forest and University of South Florida medical schools. Previously he was Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, as well as Associate Director of the Technology Transfer Office. Ellis-Behnke is redefining tissue engineering for nanomedicine. His research is focused on reconnecting the disconnected parts of the brain—with the goal of being able to provide a prescription to restore quality of life after brain or spinal cord trauma, or stroke. In animals he was the first to repair the brain showing reversal of blindness; to stop bleeding in less than 15 seconds without clotting; to preserve stem cells; and to immobilize prostate cancer stem cells.


Prof Martin Feelisch
Southampton General Hospital, UK

Martin has a long-standing interest in analytical chemistry, cardiovascular pharmacology, nutrition and metabolism, disease mechanisms, and the chemical biology of nitric oxide (NO) and nitroxyl (HNO), and has received several awards/honors in recognition of his research achievements in these areas. His more recent interests focus on the physiological significance of nitros(yl)ation reactions and the role of NO storage forms in blood and tissues; photobiology; biomarkers of cardiovascular disease and adaptation to hypoxia; hypoxic signalling and altitude physiology; regulation of mitochondrial function and redox signalling; and systems-based approaches to assessing the role of sulfide as well as nitrite, nitrate and other NO-related products in vivo. Work in his laboratory is both hypothesis- and curiosity-driven and includes basic as well as translational research projects in all of the above areas.






Prof Sean M. Grimmond PhD FFS RCPA
University of Glasgow, Scottland

Professor Grimmond is the recently appointed Chair of Medical Genomics Cancer Research at the University of Glasgow. He holds a PhD from the University of Queensland and became a Founding Fellow in the RPCA’s Faculty of Science in 2011. Professor Grimmond’s recent research has focused on the integrated analysis of whole cancer genomes, transcriptomes and epigenomes for Pancreatic, Ovarian and Oesophageal cancer cohorts. He was the founding director for the Queensland Centre for Medical Genomics and led the Australia’s  International Cancer Genome Program from 2009-2014. His current research is directed towards understanding the mechanisms that promote cancer formation, the molecular evolution of chemo-resistance and testing the clinical utility of cancer genome sequencing


A/Prof Helen Goodridge
Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, USA

Helen S Goodridge PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and the Regenerative Medicine Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles and in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. During her graduate and postdoctoral training she studied microbial detection by pattern recognition receptors, including Toll-like receptors and Dectin-1. Since establishing her own lab she has maintained her interest in mechanisms of microbial detection by the innate immune system, and also pursued new avenues of investigation in the field of hematopoiesis.


Prof Randall Harris
Ohio State University, USA


Prof Josef Penninger
Institute of Molecular
Biotechnology, Austria 

The basic approach of the Penninger group is to genetically manipulate and change genes in mice and to determine the effects of these mutations on the development of the whole organism and in diseases. His group has also developed new models in flies to model diseases at the whole genome level and compare such models with human SNP maps. From these studies, the team is trying to establish basic principles of physiology and basic mechanisms of disease pathogenesis. In particular, the Penninger laboratory focuses on heart and lung diseases, cancer, and bone diseases.


A/Prof Manu. O Platt
Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

Dr. Manu O. Platt received his B.S. in Biology from Morehouse College in 2001 and his Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University joint program in biomedical engineering in 2006 studying flow mediated mechanisms of proteolytic cardiovascular remodeling in atherosclerosis. He finished his postdoctoral training at MIT in orthopedic tissue engineering and systems biology prior to returning to Georgia Tech and Emory in the joint department of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Platt’s transdisciplinary research bridges tissue remodeling, systems biology, and a number of diseases. Tissue remodeling involves the activation of proteases, enzymes capable of degrading the structural proteins of tissue and organs, and systems biology involves the use of computational models with experimental systems to explain phenomena difficult to test at the wet lab bench. The Platt Lab studies proteolytic mechanisms in a number of diseases: pediatric strokes in children with sickle cell disease, HIV-mediated cardiovascular disease, tendinopathy in overuse injuries, endometriosis, and personalized medicine applications to predict individual patient-specific cancer metastasis potential. His work has been funded by NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, International AIDS Society, Georgia Cancer Coalition, and the National Science Foundation.



Prof Norman Ratcliffe
University of West England, UK

Norman Ratcliffe has worked for a range of companies in the Electronics, Aerospace and Nuclear industries as well as in the agri-food and medical diagnostics areas with over 170 refereed publications, reviewed industrial reports and patents. Norman has specialised in the gas/volatile analysis area for over 20 years particularly for the agri-food and medical industry involving the world’s first automated electronic nose system for quality control of ham and the first VOC quality control system for monitoring stored vegetable produce. Medical areas particularly include the rapid diagnosis of gastro-intestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, infectious diseases of the gut eg hospital acquired infections and diseases of the urinary tract particularly infections, prostate and bladder cancer, using electronic nose technology and GCMS for analysing breath, stool, saliva and urine.


Prof Diane Simeone
University of Michigan, USA

Dr. Diane Simeone is the Lazar J. Greenfield Endowed Professor of Surgery and Physiology and Division Chief of HPB and Advanced GI Surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center. She is the co-Director of the GI Oncology Program for the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the co-PI of the University of Michigan SPORE Grant in GI Malignancies. Dr. Simeone's principal clinical interests are in the management of solid and cystic pancreatic tumors. She is the Director of the Multidisciplinary Pancreatic Tumor Program and the HPB Surgical Fellowship at the University of Michigan Cancer Center. Professor Simeone has multiple NIH grants investigating the molecular mechanisms important in the development and progression of pancreatic adenocarcinoma and the function of cancer stem cells. She also leads several studies developing biomarkers for the early diagnosis of pancreatic malignancy. She currently serves as an Associate Editor of the journal Gastroenterology and is the past-President of the Society of University Surgeons and the American Pancreatic Association. Dr. Simeone is a member of the Institute of Medicine.


Prof Peter Wolf
Medical University of Graz, Austria


Prof Thomas Vaughan
University of Washington, USA

Dr. Vaughan's research interests include environmental and genetic factors in the causation of cancer. Examples include studies of occupational exposure to formaldehyde and wood dust in relation to lung and nasopharyngeal cancer, obesity and use of selected medications in the etiology of esophageal and gastric adenocarcinoma, and genetic studies of cancers of the nasopharynx, lung, esophagus, stomach, and kidney. He is also involved in a long-term cohort study of persons with pre-cancerous lesions of the esophagus, in which cell cycle and genetic abnormalities are being used as intermediate markers to facilitate identifying environmental and host factors that increase risk of neoplastic progression.


Prof Giuseppe Valacchi
University of Ferrara, Italy

Giuseppe Valacchi is Associate Professor in Physiology at the Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology at the University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy. He obtained his B.S. degree with Laude in physiopathology and his Ph.D. degree in cell physiology and neuroimmunophysiology at the University of Siena, Siena, Italy. During his training he has spend circa 10 years in USA where he has worked as an Exchange Ph.D. Student, Post Doc fellow and Research Associate in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and at UC Davis. His research is focused on the effect of environmental oxidative stress such as O3, cigarette smoke and UV on target organs such as skin and lung. Recently is research has been involved also in the role of oxidative stress in a rare disease, Rett Syndrome. He is author of circa 130 papers, 15 book chapters, one book and has been invited speaker to more than 60 international conferences. He has won several awards among them the Entelligence Award from Actelion, Young Investigator Award , Science and Education Award from OCC. He is the Associate Editor for the Journal Mediators of Inflammation, Frontiers in Cellular Biochemistry , World Research Journal of Biochemistry and Biomed Research International (Dermatology Subject) in addition he is part of the editorial board of  several journal among which Genes and Nutrition, Open Nitric Oxide Journal.


Prof John Windsor
University of Auckland, NZ

Professor John Windsor is a surgeon who holds a personal chair in Surgery at the University of Auckland and is Director of Surgical Research.  He founded the Pancreas Research Group (1992), Surgical Skills Centre (1993), HPB/UGI Unit (1994), and the Surgical Research Network (2007) which now encompasses ASML (Applied Surgery and Metabolism Laboratory) and SCORE (Surgical Centre for Outcomes Research and Evaluation). 


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Yours Sincerely,  

Dr Tina Bianco-Miotto
ASMR Director, Convenor AHMRC 2014 
A/Prof Gilda Tachedjian
Program Organising Convenor AHMRC 2014