Keynote Speakers

Prof. Erica Ollmann Saphire

Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D. is a Professor of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. Her research explains, at the molecular level, how and why viruses like Ebola and Lassa are pathogenic and provides the roadmap for medical defense. Her team has solved the structures of the Ebola, Sudan, Marburg, Bundibugyo and Lassa virus glycoproteins, explained how they remodel these structures as they drive themselves into cells, how their proteins suppress immune function and where human antibodies can defeat these viruses. A recent discovery revealed why neutralizing antibodies had been so difficult to elicit against Lassa virus, and provided not only the templates for the needed vaccine, but the molecule itself: a Lassa surface glycoprotein engineered to remain in the right conformation to inspire the needed antibody response. This molecule is the basis for international vaccine efforts against Lassa. Dr. Saphire was also the galvanizing force behind the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Immunotherapeutic Consortium and is the Director of this organization. This consortium, an NIH-funded Center of Excellence in Translational Research, unites 44 previously competing academic, industrial and government labs across five continents to understand and provide antibody therapeutics against Ebola, Marburg, Lassa and other viruses.


Prof. Benjamin tenOever, PhD

Prof. tenOever completed his postdoctoral training in biochemistry from Harvard after receiving his PhD in medicine from McGill. Thereafter, he began his own independent group at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the Department of Microbiology and is presently an Arthur and Irene Fishberg Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Virus Engineering Center for Therapeutics and Research (VECToR). His research interests center on the biology of virus and host interactions.

Over the past ten years, the tenOever lab has used synthetic biology to alter the behavior of a wide variety of viruses in order to better understand both how they cause disease and how they might be harnessed for use in genetic therapies.  Through the support of the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, the tenOever lab has developed a molecular toolbox that enables everything from novel vaccine platforms to the capacity to transform viruses into tools for genetic engineering.  As many of these designs rely on the exploitation of the cellular machinery, this work has also revealed novel insights into the mechanics by which cells can inhibit virus and how these activities have evolved over evolutionary time. Dr. tenOever’s research program has been recognized through awards from the Pew Biomedical Trust, Burroughs Wellcome Trust, the Fulbright Foundation and the President of the United States.

In addition to research, Dr. tenOever is also passionate about scientific communication.  Often described as having an ‘infectious enthusiasm’, Dr. tenOever has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to teaching medical students, graduate students, and maintaining numerous community outreach programs including a high school-based virus discovery program.  For more information, please see: http://bit.ly/tenOever

Invited Speakers

Prof. Lorena Brown

Lorena Brown is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne and heads a laboratory at the Doherty Institute dedicated to understanding and controlling influenza virus. Her work contributes to an NHMRC Program devoted to understanding why some individuals or populations experience particularly severe outcomes of influenza. Her translational research skills, learnt from high-level involvement in the Cooperative Research Centre for Vaccine Technology, have led to significant advances in the pursuit of better vaccines and therapeutics for influenza.Her group has also made major discoveries on how the virus evolves by swapping its genes and what may be the consequences of this for human disease during pandemics. Her international collaborative efforts in influenza have been recognised by the Russian Academy of Science and she is a member of the Global Institution for Collaborative Research and Education in the area of zoonosis control in Hokkaido University, Japan, where she holds the position of Distinguished Professor

Associate Prof. Karyn Johnson, PhD

Associate Professor Karyn Johnson gained her PhD in Molecular Virology at the Australian National University and has been at the University of Queensland since 2004. Her research interests encompass the interaction of viruses with their insect hosts. Her research group primarily uses the Drosophila model to tease apart the contribution of each partner to the interaction by controlling the genetics of both the host and the virus. Recent research has focused on Wolbachia-mediated antiviral protection and the role of miRNAs in the outcome of virus infection.

Dr Alex Khromykh, Senior Research Fellow and the Deputy Director

Dr Khromykhis an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and the Deputy Director (Virology) of the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre at the University of Queensland. He completed his PhD in Molecular Virology in 1990 at the State Centre for Virology and Biotechnology “Vector” on the development of vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis virus. He then obtained postdoctoral trainings at the University of Ottawa, Canada and then at the Sir Albert Sakzewski Virus Research Centre (SASVRC) in Brisbane. He established his independent laboratory at the SASVRC in 2001 and then moved to the University of Queensland where he took an appointment with the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences. One of the main focuses of Dr Khromykh’s research has been the development and applications of advanced molecular techniques, in particularly, inventive approaches to generate infectious flavivrius cDNAs, chimeric and mutant viruses, and large virus libraries to address fundamental questions in flavivirus replication and pathogenesis and to develop effective vaccine candidates. Other research interests include viral evasion of host innate immune response, viral and host non-coding RNAs, and replicon-based vaccine and cancer therapy vectors. Dr Khromykh has published 131 articles cited >9800 times with recent publications in Nature Microbiology and Nature Communications.