Dr Burns is an experienced drug discovery leader having worked in various roles in pharma, biotech and academia for 25 years. He has led teams resulting in the discovery of two anti-cancer agents that have entered clinical trial, including the drug momelotinib currently in late Phase III studies. Most recently Dr Burns was a Laboratory Head at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, and was previously Research Director at Melbourne biotech Cytopia Research and Chief Scientific Adviser at Canadian biotech YM BioSciences. Dr Burns has a PhD in Organic Chemistry and is the inventor on over 30 patents and a co-author on over 50 scientific publications.

CSO: Assoc. Professor Jeff Holst PhD

Associate Professor Jeff Holst is currently a Faculty member at the University of New South Wales with 12 years’ experience working on amino acid transport and metabolism in cancer. He leads the Translational Cancer Metabolism Laboratory in the Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, and has authored over 60 scientific publications with more than 2000 citations. A/Prof Holst’s laboratory was the first to discover the critical role of amino acid transporters in regulating mTORC1 pathway activation in prostate cancer. His current work focuses on targeting amino acid metabolic pathways in triple-negative breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma.


Chair: Melissa McBurnie PhD MBA GAICD

Dr McBurnie is currently an investment manager at Brandon Capital Partners and has prior investment experience with life science venture fund Terra Rossa Capital. Following PhD and post-doctoral research, Dr McBurnie joined an early stage medical device company before a role in business development with BioInnovationSA. Dr McBurnie has a PhD in Immunology from the University of Adelaide, an MBA specialising in finance from the University of South Australia, holds a Graduate Certificate in Applied Finance and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Dr McBurnie is also Chair of Helmedix, an early stage peptide therapeutics company.

Katrina Frankcombe, PhD

Dr Frankcombe is the translation and commercialisation manager for the Centenary and Anzac Institutes. She has over 14 years of commercialisation experience, both in biotech and technology transfer and has an excellent understanding of intellectual property law. She has a PhD in chemistry and a background in pre-clinical drug discovery, having worked for UK and US biotech companies in a number of roles, including lead optimisation consultancy. During this time, she worked on a number of
therapeutic programmes across different indications for companies such as CellZome and Ionix.


In the academic space, Katrina has also held commercialisation roles at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research (including St Vincent’s Hospital) and the University of Sydney. She has negotiated and managed several licence deals, including early-stage therapeutic licenses to AVEO Pharmaceuticals, Novartis and Novo Nordisk and a diagnostic assay licence to Roche which recently received CE mark in Europe. In 2014, she successfully established the Garvan Institute spin-off Solvanix Pty Limited, securing
 UD$2 million start-up funding from the Medical Research Commercialization Fund.

Mike Bettess PhD MBA

Dr Bettess is a venture capital investor specialising in the commercialisation of early stage research opportunities from academic institutes and is currently an investment manager at Brandon Capital Partners. Previously he was the Senior Business Development Manager at Monash University, Melbourne, where he managed the Life Science portfolio for the Faculty of Medicine. His prior experience in commercialisation and investment includes 5 years as an Investment Manager (Life Sciences) at the Trans-Tasman Commercialisation Fund where he led seed investments in Heart Metabolics Ltd., serving as Director, and Nexvet Biopharma (NASDAQ - NVET). Dr Bettess holds a PhD from the University of Adelaide and an MBA specialising in technology management from La Trobe University.


Assoc. Prof Renae Ryan

Renae Ryan is a Professor of Pharmacology in the Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney. She has been working on understanding the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitter and amino acid transporters for over 15 years and has co-authored 45 scientific papers with over 1200 citations. At the University of Sydney, Renae leads a team that uses a range of biophysical and structural techniques to understand membrane protein structure and function. Her current work involves developing novel therapeutics that target membrane transporters to treat chronic pain and cancer.