Panel Discussion – Precision Medicine

Panel Chair


Professor David Thomas

Professor David Thomas is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, and a medical oncologist specialising in sarcomas.  In June 2014, he was appointed as Director of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and Head of the Cancer Division at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney.  Prof Thomas has a particular focus on the impact of genomics on cancer medicine and public health.  His work has had significant translational impact.  Prof Thomas led an international clinical trial of denosumab in Giant Cell Tumor of bone, which has led to a new therapeutic option for patients with advanced disease.  He established a national infrastructure for clinical research into sarcomas, the Australasian Sarcoma Study Group.  As Director of the statewide adolescent and young adult cancer service, onTrac@PeterMac, Dr Thomas played a significant national and international role in the development of adolescent and young adult oncology.


Panel Members


Professor Kathryn North

Professor Kathryn North AM is Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the David Danks Professor of Child Health Research at the University of Melbourne.

Professor North is trained as a physician, neurologist and clinical geneticist and in 1994, was awarded a doctorate for research in neurogenetics. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Harvard Genetics Program.

Professor North has a major research and clinical focus on Genomic Medicine.  In 2014, Professor North was appointed as Co-Chair of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health – a collaborative network of over 400 organisations across over 45 countries funded by the NIH and the Wellcome Trust ( Commencing in 2016, she is one of the leaders of an NHMRC-funded national network of over 40 institutions – the Australian Genomics Health Alliance (AGHA). The goal of AGHA is to provide evidence and practical strategies for the implementation of genomic medicine in the Australian health system.

Professor North has received a number of awards including the GSK Australia Award for Research Excellence (2011), the Ramaciotti Medal  for Excellence in Biomedical Research (2012) and Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to medicine in the field of neuromuscular and neurogenetics research (2012). In 2012, Professor North was appointed Chair of the National Health and Medical Research Council Research Committee and in 2014 was appointed as a Foundation fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science. She chairs the International Advisory Board of the Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (UK) and is a member of the Board of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre.


Professor Doug Hilton

Professor Doug Hilton is the 6th Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Head of the Department of Medical Biology in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and the immediate past President of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI). He is best known for his discoveries in the area of cytokine signalling, his advocacy for health & medical research and for gender equity in science. The Hilton lab aims to understand which of the 30,000 genes are important in the production and function of blood cells, and how this information can be used to better prevent, diagnose and treat blood cell diseases such as leukaemia, arthritis and asthma. Professor Hilton has been awarded numerous prizes for his research into how blood cells communicate and has led major collaborations with industry to translate his discoveries from the bench to the bedside. He is an inventor of more than 20 patent families, most of which have been licensed, and is a co-founder of the biotechnology company MuriGen. He is an Officer of the Order of Australia, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and of Health and Medical Sciences.


Professor Don Chisholm

Prof Don Chisholm has been involved in diabetes research and clinical practice for 50 years and has published over 250 original papers or reviews/editorials, with >19000 citations. He is Professor of Endocrinology at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, the University of NSW and at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research (where he was for a long time Head of the Diabetes and Metabolism Program).  He has been President of the Australian Diabetes Society (ADS,1984-86), Vice President (1997-2003) and Chairman of the Congress Program Committee (1985-88) of the International Diabetes Federation and a Councillor of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (1986-95).  He was a National Board member of St Vincent’s Health Australia (1996-2005) and chair of the National Diabetes Strategy Group of the Commonwealth Department of Health (2001-2005).   He has been awarded the College Medal by the RACP, the Kellion Award by the ADS and in 1999 was made an Officer in the Order of Australia. He has a long standing interest in tailoring therapeutic advances in diabetes to the characteristics of the patient.


Dr Mandy Ballinger

Dr Ballinger is a Group Leader at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research overseeing a program of work focused on genetic cancer risk. Key to her work is the International Sarcoma Kindred Study.  Since 2009 she has overseen recruitment of over 2000 families worldwide and recently published the largest study to date into the heritable factors contributing to sarcoma. Dr Ballinger developed the Surveillance study in Multi-Organ Cancer prone syndromes and was a key driver in a meta-analysis of baseline whole body MRI in Li Fraumeni syndrome, that will influence clinical practice internationally. More recently, she’s overseeing the Genetic Cancer Risk in the Young study investigating the heritable aspects of cancer. Dr Ballinger’s work aims to utilize these cohorts to define the extent of heritable risk in sarcoma and other cancers, and to turn the cohorts into vehicles for intervention to change practice and improve outcomes for families.




Professor John Mattick

Prof John Mattick is the Executive Director of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, which houses one of the most advanced clinical genomics facilities in the world. He obtained his BSc from the University of Sydney and his PhD from Monash University in Melbourne. He undertook his postdoctoral training at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and then the CSIRO Division of Molecular Biology in Sydney. In 1988 he was appointed the Foundation Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Queensland, where he was also Director of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and the Australian Genome Research Facility.

Professor Mattick is best known for showing that the majority of the human genome is not junk but rather specifies a regulatory RNA network that directs the epigenetic trajectories of development. His honours and awards include the inaugural Gutenberg Professorship of the University of Strasbourg, the Order of Australia and Australian Government Centenary Medal, Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science, Associate Membership of the European Molecular Biology Organization, Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, the International Union of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Medal, the Human Genome Organisation Chen Award for Distinguished Achievement in Human Genetic & Genomic Research, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Bertner Memorial Award for Distinguished Contributions to Cancer Research.


Cocktail Function

Presented by Dr Renee Lim

Renee Lim has been singing, dancing and acting since she was five. Though initially from Perth, she moved to Sydney to study medicine at UNSW, and the acting bug has never quite left her.

Renee balances a diverse range of careers uniting her passion for medicine, health and wellbeing, and her belief in the integral value of education to empower people. She also has a great love of performance, which has led to starring roles in theatre, film and television as an actor and presenter.

As an actor, Renee plays Mae in the hit ABC series Please Like Me, which won the 2017 Logie Award for Most Outstanding Comedy. She featured on the Australian hospital drama All Saints as Suzi Lau and also as Jung Lim on SBS police drama East West 101. She will feature in the new ABC medical drama Pulse, which is scheduled to debut in late 2017. She is also about to start shooting the second season of The Secret Daughter for Channel 7 following on from her starring role 2016’s season, and has also starred in Wonderland and 2014’s Forget Me Not.

Her passion for food has led to work on popular SBS series Food Investigators and Destination Flavour. Renee has also teamed up with the Foodwise Team at Do Something – headed by Jon Dee (Planet Ark co-founder and NSW Australian of the Year) to increase awareness and provide solutions for issues surrounding food sustainability. Renee is currently presenting on Ask the Doctor – a new ABC series that addresses the state of the nation’s health, the latest in medical treatments and the future of healthcare as we know it.

If this wasn’t enough, Renee has also worked in the NSW hospital system as a locum doctor in the areas of emergency medicine, palliative care, and geriatrics for many years, visiting almost every major hospital in the greater Sydney area. While these specialties seem incredibly disparate, Renee has found the different challenges of each discipline integral to treating her patients holistically and with authentic empathic care.

In her role as Director of Program Development at the Pam McLean Centre, she designs educational curriculum for both students and health professionals on communication skills and dealing with conflict. Renee has also worked with Sydney University, UNSW, Macquarie University, and NSW Health and her research has been published and presented at both national and international conferences in Communication Teaching. Renee’s empathy and passion for helping other people to ‘find their way’ led her to create the educational multi-platform resource Nay In The Life, which is designed to create an open-dialogue around identity, resilience and mental-health.

Renee also works as a consultant, using her various skills and experiences to focus on Engagement and The ‘Human Factor’ in varied contexts. She has worked with Medicines San Frontier, Streetwork, NSW Ambulance, Foodwise, and a number of corporations and is presently the Health Grants Advisor to the Paul Ramsay Foundation. She also has developed a program known as The Value of Kindness in conjunction with KFilms, to encourage humanity in the workplace. On top of all of this, Renee is also a businesswoman and entrepreneur. She has been involved in the creation of Changineers; an educational design company specialising in creating multimedia learning experiences to maximise learning.