Speakers

International

Professor Christine Seidman

Christine Seidman, MD is the Thomas W. Smith Professor of Medicine and Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is the founding Director of the BWH Cardiovascular Genetics Center. Seidman co-directs a basic research laboratory within the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. Her research aims to discover genes, mutations, and mechanisms for human heart muscle disorders. Seidman has identified genetic causes for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy, defined the consequences of mutations on biophysical properties of sarcomeres, and described cell and molecular responses to these abnormalities.

From studies of genetic causes for congenital heart malformations, she has uncovered transcriptional pathways that are critical for normal heart development.

Professor Bernard Keavney

Bernard Keavney is British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at The University of Manchester. Bernard’s scientific career has focused on human genetics of complex cardiovascular disease. He and his colleagues have made contributions to the genetic understanding of hypertension, coronary artery disease and congenital heart disease, using GWAS, Mendelian Randomisation, and next-generation sequencing approaches. His group are now conducting work to understand the functional biology that underlies some of the genetic associations which they have discovered, with particular focus on congenital heart disease.

Bernard is Chair of the UK Biobank International Scientific Advisory Board, and Chair of the Genomics England Cardiovascular working group. He is a practising clinical cardiologist with expertise in coronary intervention, inherited cardiac conditions, and the management of heart disease in pregnancy.

Professor Stan Nattel

Dr. Nattel received his MD from McGill University in 1974 and trained in Internal Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology at McGill between 1974 and 1978. He obtained Cardiology clinical and basic research training at Indiana University and University of Pennsylvania (1978-1981) before joining the faculty at McGill in 1981. In 1987, he transferred to the University of Montreal and Montreal Heart Institute, where he directed the Research Center between 1990 and 2004. He is presently Paul-David Chair in Cardiovascular Electrophysiology at the University of Montreal and Director of the Electrophysiology Research Program at the Montreal Heart Institute, where he continues to practice clinical cardiology. He is Editor in Chief of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

 

Professor Ahsain Husain

Following his PhD, Husain was a postdoctoral researcher in Cardiovascular Physiology and Biochemistry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation Research Institute with F. Merlin Bumpus. He subsequently established an independent group at the Cleveland Clinic and rose to the position of Associate Staff Faculty. He then moved to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney, Australia, in 1997, where he was Deputy Director and Head of the Cardiac Enzymology, and Professor of Biochemistry at the University of New South Wales. In 2003, he relocated to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he was Director of Heart Failure Research and Professor of Physiology. In 2008, Husain moved to Emory University School of Medicine, where he currently is Professor in the Department of Medicine/Cardiology.

Professor Benjamin Meder

Benjamin Meder is cardiomyopathy specialist and interventional cardiologist and has a long track-record in experimental and translational research. He is Debuty Medical Director of the Center for Cardiology, Angiology and Pulmonology of the University Hospital Heidelberg and group leader for Molecular Genetics and Translational Biotechnology. He is heading the Institute for Cardiomyopathies Heidelberg (ICH.), which is a precision medicine unit dedicated to heart muscle disorders. In the ICH. outpatient unit more than 2000 patients per year are diagnosed and treated according to state-of-the-art methods. As first center world-wide the team introduced next-gen sequencing technologies in the routine assessment of patients and commercialized their first assay in 2010. As incoming speaker of the working group for cardiomyopathies of the German Society of Cardiology he envisages to harmonize treatment pathways and quality of care for cardiomyopathy patients, which is supported by a national registry on cardiomyopathies within the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK-TORCH-Plus).

Dr Yongzhi Qiu

Dr Qiu is an Instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta, USA. His research interests are at the interface of engineering and medicine. He obtained his PhD in Bioengineering from Clemson University, focusing on developing novel biomaterials for regenerating tissues, including bone, cartilage, and blood vessel. He completed postdoctoral studies in experimental hematology under the mentorship of Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD. In the past several years, Dr Qiu has been focused on investigating platelet mechanobiology and developing vasculature-on-chip technologies. Leveraging these technologies, he is devoted to advancing the research in the field of hematology. He is also dedicated to translating these techniques into diagnostics and therapeutics for blood disorders.

National

Professor Bob Graham

Robert M. Graham received his medical training at the University of New South Wales where he is now the Des Renford Professor of Medicine, (UNSW). He has been the inaugural Executive Director, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute (VCCRI), Sydney, Australia, since returning to Australia in 1994 after 17 years in the US. There he worked at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas under the late Al Gilman (Nobel Laureate); the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked under the late H. Gobind Khorana (Nobel Laureate) and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, where he was the Robert C. Tarazi Professor and Chairman, Department of Molecular Cardiology. He maintains an active clinical practice as a consultant physician in cardiorenal diseases. His research focuses on molecular cardiology with emphasis on cardiac regenerative mechanisms and coronary artery disease.

Professor David Winlaw

Professor David Winlaw is a paediatric cardiac surgeon and researcher. He is based at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and is Professor in Paediatric Cardiac Surgery at the University of Sydney. He is the Head of Paediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery in the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. Professor Winlaw is also the newest faculty member to join the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, working very closely with Professor Sally Dunwoodie. David’s main research interests are the genetic basis of congenital heart disease, the role of genetic variants in post-operative outcome, neurodevelopment in neonates undergoing heart surgery and long-term outcomes in congenital heart disease.

Professor Richard Harvey

Professor Richard Harvey is the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute’s Co-Deputy Director and Head of the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Division. He holds the endowed Sir Peter Finley Professorship of Heart Research at UNSW and an NHMRC Australia Fellowship, and is a member of the Australian Academy of Science and EMBO. His research has focused on the genetic basis of heart development and congenital heart disease, and more recently on the biology and origins of adult cardiac stem cells, and cardiac regeneration. In 2016, Professor Harvey was named as a Fellow of the Royal Society, joining scientific luminaries such as, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking and Howard Florey.

 

Dr Eleni Giannoulatou

Dr Eleni Giannoulatou joined the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in 2013 as a member of the Bioinformatics and Systems Medicine Laboratory and in 2015 she started an independent research group. Dr Giannoulatou’s research focuses on the development and application of statistical methods to answer complex genetic questions using high-throughput genomics data. Using the latest next-generation sequencing technologies, her team develops quantitative approaches to identify disease-causing DNA mutations, and aims to understand the emergence of de novo mutations in the human genome.

 

Dr Kazu Kikuchi

Dr Kazu Kikuchi joined the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in 2011 and is head of the Cardiac Regeneration Laboratory in the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Division. He is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, St Vincent’s Clinical School, University of New South Wales. He graduated from the Tohoku University School of Medicine, Japan, in 1999 and completed his PhD at the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in 2003. Upon finishing his thesis, he studied as a post-doctoral fellow in Motonari Kondo’s Lab at Duke University in the US, and later went on to study organ regeneration in Ken Poss’ lab, also at Duke University.

 

Professor Roland Stocker

Professor Roland Stocker is recognised internationally as an expert in redox biology, particularly for his research on antioxidants, and mechanisms and prevention of atherosclerotic vascular disease. His work on bilirubin as an antioxidant is now referred to in biochemistry textbooks and it has contributed to a change in the threshold at which hyperbilirubinemia is treated in clinics. His work on vitamin E has changed the handling of parenteral nutrition in NICUs in New Zealand/Australia, and it provides a scientific rationale for the overall lack of benefit of vitamin E supplements on cardiovascular disease outcome.

 

A/Professor Enzo Porello

A/Prof Enzo Porrello is a National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Fellow and Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow who heads the Cardiac Regeneration Group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The University of Melbourne. A/Prof Porrello’s research group are working towards the development of novel regenerative therapies for children and adults with heart failure. His research achievements have been recognised by a number of prestigious awards including the Metcalf Prize for Stem Cell Research, Heart Foundation Paul Korner Innovation Award, Heart Foundation Queensland Researcher of the Year, A.K. McIntyre Prize (Australian Physiological Society) and the UT Southwestern Postdoctoral Achievement Award.

 

Professor Jonathan Kalman

Professor Jonathan Kalman AO is an NHMRC practitioner fellow who leads both clinical and research groups in the Department of Heart Rhythm Disorders at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and University of Melbourne. Professor Kalman has a national and international reputation as a leader in the field of atrial arrhythmia research and has authored over 380 peer-reviewed publications. He serves on the editorial board of 12 international cardiology journals including Circulation, JACC and The European Heart Journal. Professor Kalman is the immediate past president of the Asia Pacific Heart Thythm Society and served as chair of the scientific committee of CSANZ for 6 years.

 

Professor Peter Currie

Peter Currie received his PhD in Drosophila genetics from Syracuse University, New York, USA. He undertook postdoctoral training in zebrafish development at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK) in London, UK. He has worked as an independent laboratory head at the UK Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh, UK and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney, Australia where he headed a research programme focused on skeletal muscle development and regeneration. His work is centered on understanding how the small freshwater zebrafish, an important model in biomedical research, is able to build and regenerate skeletal muscle and how this information can be used to design better treatments for muscle diseases. In 2016 he was appointed Director of the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University Melbourne, Australia.

Professor Chris Semsarian

Prof Semsarian is a cardiologist with a specific research focus in the genetic basis of cardiovascular disease. He trained at the University of Sydney, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. A focus area of his research is in the investigation and prevention of sudden cardiac death in the young, particularly amongst children and young adults. Prof Semsarian has an established research program which is at the interface of basic science, clinical research and public health, with the ultimate goal to prevent the complications of genetic heart diseases in our community.

 

Professor Livia Hool

Based at The University of Western Australia, Professor Livia Hool is one of our newest faculty members to join the Victor Chang Institute. Professor Hool decided to pursue a career in heart research after observing how quickly heart attack patients deteriorated to heart failure and death in the Coronary Care Unit. Now an expert in electrophysiology, Livia leads a team of nine talented researchers who are investigating the effects of calcium and free radicals on heart function. Prof Hool is also currently optimising treatments to help people suffering from ischemic and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, as well as heart failure associated with muscular dystrophy.

 

A/Professor James Hudson

Associate Professor James Hudson is a Group Leader of the Organoid Research Lab at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. James completed a Bachelor of Chemical and Biological Engineering (2006) followed by a PhD in Biotechnology (2011) at the University of Queensland. He completed postdoctoral training at the University Medical Center in Goettingen, Germany with Professor Wolfram-Hubertus Zimmermann prior to becoming a group leader in 2014. James has driven a research program in the generation and use of human cardiac tissues for cardiac regeneration or heart failure therapeutics through his career publishing in leading journals in his field including: Biomaterials (x2), Development, Circulation (x3), Nature Communications, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, and Cell Stem Cell (x2). His research has resulted in 34 publications and 5 patents on tissue engineering technologies and putative heart failure therapeutics. James has won prestigious prizes for his work including The Paul Dudley White International Scholar Award from the American Heart Association (2018), The Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Award (2017), the QLD Cardiovascular Researcher of the Year (2016) and the Paul Korner Innovation Award (2016) from the National Heart Foundation.

Professor Peter Macdonald

Professor Peter Macdonald is Conjoint Professor of Medicine in the University of New South Wales, senior staff Cardiologist in the Cardiopulmonary Transplant Unit at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney and co-head of the Transplantation Research Laboratory at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. Major research interests over the last 20 years have been in the areas of heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, transplant allograft rejection, donor management and organ preservation injury. Professor Macdonald has established a basic research laboratory at the Victor Chang Institute, which has developed a variety of in vitro and in vivo small and large animal models in order to investigate these areas. He has been involved in multiple clinical studies with the major focus being the translation of laboratory findings into clinical practice.

Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina

Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina is a Senior Lecturer and Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow researcher at the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, UNSW Sydney. Her research interests are at the interface of biology and engineering, focusing on the development of biomimetic biomaterials that direct cell interactions for enhanced vascularisation and treatment of cardiovascular disease. She completed her doctoral degree in Anthony Weiss’ lab at the University of Sydney, studying synthetic human elastin as a biomaterial for skin tissue engineering. Her postdoctoral research in David Kaplan’s group at Tufts University in Boston focused on novel biomaterials developed from silk fibroin to address a number of clinically unmet needs. She participates in the medtech sector through a range of activities including her role as the Treasurer and Secretary of the Australasian Society for Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering and as a member of the Centre for Commercialisation of Regenerative Medicine Australia Scientific Advisory Board.

Dr James Chong

Dr James Chong MBBS, FRACP, PhD is a practising interventional cardiologist at Westmead hospital and Co-director of the Centre of Heart Research at Westmead Institute for Medical Research/University of Sydney. His research aims to develop new therapies for cardiac patients including those with heart attack and heart failure. A recent focus has developing recombinant human PDGF-AB growth factor and pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes as therapeutics for heart repair. His work has been recognised by awards including the 2014 NSW CVRN Ministerial Award for Rising Stars in Cardiovascular Research, a 2015 Heart Foundation Paul Korner Innovation Award and a 2016 Metcalf Prize for Stem Cell Research.

 

Professor Martin Ugander

Professor Martin Ugander, MD, PhD, is since 2019 Professor of Cardiac Imaging at the University of Sydney. He received his MD in 2001 and PhD in 2006 from Lund University, Sweden. 2009-2011 he was a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA. 2011-2019 he undertook clinical training in the medical specialty Clinical Physiology, and become Associate Professor at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden. His research interests are in non-invasive cardiac imaging with MRI of ischemic heart disease and heart failure, as well as basic cardiac pumping physiology. His research spans technical, pre-clinical translational, and clinical cardiovascular imaging using cardiac MRI, echocardiography, SPECT, CT, and ECG.

 

Dr Alex Pinto

Alexander Pinto is the head of the Cardiac Cellular Systems laboratory at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Research Institute. Previously, he held appointments at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL; Rome, Italy), Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI, Melbourne, Australia) and the Jackson Laboratory (Maine, USA). Some of his research highlights include the first characterisation of macrophages in the mammalian heart, the first survey of mammalian cardiac cellular composition, and the first single-cell transcriptomic analysis of cardiac non-myocytes. Using single-cell, imaging and systems biology approaches, his current research focusses on understanding changes in cellular networks in health and disease, and the impact of these changes for disease development.

 

Professor Rebecca Ritchie

Professor Rebecca Ritchie is Head of Heart Failure Pharmacology and Chair of Science Faculty at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. She holds an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship, holds adjunct Professorial appointments in the Depts of Diabetes and Pharmacology at Monash University. Prof Ritchie leads an internationally-recognised dynamic research program identifying new strategies to treat heart-failure, particularly secondary to diabetes and myocardial infarction. Her research achievements to date have enabled her to identify potential new treatment strategies, both pharmacological and gene delivery-based, for arresting the progression of heart failure in preclinical models of human disease. Of relevance for this forum, one of her breakthrough discoveries is that maladaptive glucose metabolism towards the sugar β-N-acetylglucosamine (increased in diabetic human heart) is a critical regulator of diabetic heart phenotype. Prof Ritchie is internationally-recognised for her contributions to cardiac pharmacology, with ~100 career publications.