Our people

MedChem Australia Leadership Group

Brendon Monahan
Professor, Monash University
Director of MedChem Australia

Brendon Monahan is Director of MedChem Australia and is based at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS). In partnership with the Nodes and project providers, Brendon is responsible for the overall operation of MedChem Australia. Previously, Brendon was the Chief Scientific Officer of Canthera Discovery, formerly the Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx). Brendon is passionate about translating innovative research discoveries into potential new therapies and has extensive experience establishing collaborative multidisciplinary drug discovery teams which have delivered successful outcomes. Brendon has led or contributed to many licensed drug discovery programs across epigenetic, kinase, RNA modulation, and immuno-oncology targets, with two assets currently in active clinical trials and others in preclinical development. Brendon was Project Leader for two chromatin modifying targets licensed to Pfizer in a deal worth $20M upfront, US$460M in potential development and sales milestone payments, plus royalties. One of those projects, KAT6A, is currently in Phase I clinical trials for advanced or metastatic solid tumours.

Susan Charman
Professor, Director of the Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation (CDCO), Monash University
DMPK Capability Leader

Susan Charman is Professor and Director of the Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation (CDCO), Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) and leads the DMPK capability for MedChem Australia. She has worked in the area of biopharmaceutical drug candidate optimisation for more than 25 years. She has significant experience working with multidisciplinary drug discovery teams, providing data in support of medicinal chemistry and biology to guide compound design and progression. She leads a team of 22 postdoctoral and research scientists and has established robust, industry-standard platforms that underpin a successful model for collaborative, translational research within a university environment. The CDCO provides expertise and infrastructure in physicochemical properties, drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination (ADME) characteristics and in vivo drug absorption and disposition. Optimisation of ADME and pharmacokinetic properties is essential for new drug candidates to ensure safe and efficacious exposure profiles and convenient dosing regimens for patients. Her research group has contributed to drug discovery programs that have progressed more than 42 new drug candidates to human clinical trials in a range of disease areas.

Paul Stupple
Professor. Director of the Australian Translational Medicinal Chemistry Facility, Monash University
Node Head, Monash

Paul Stupple is a medicinal chemist with more than 20 years of experience in the global pharmaceutical industry and academia. He is Head of the MedChem Australia Monash node and also leads the Australian Translational Medicinal Chemistry Facility at MIPS. He has an outstanding track record of advancing projects to clinical development through progression of effective design strategies, development of exceptional teams and an enthusiastic approach to building strong multidisciplinary relationships. He has a DPhil in Chemistry from the University of Oxford and spent the first decade of his career at Pfizer where he ultimately led multidisciplinary teams which delivered 6 clinical candidates of which 4 advanced to Phase I clinical trials and 2 to Phase II. Following a subsequent move to Australia, initially to WEHI, then Monash University, he led the Medicinal Chemistry program at the Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx), later rebranded to Canthera Discovery. Through this role he led a chemistry program that resulted in two of the largest preclinical licencing agreements ever made in Australia. Namely PRMT5 inhibitors licensed to Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD) in 2016, and chromatin modifying assets licensed to Pfizer in 2018, from which its lead compound was nominated as a development candidate and is currently undergoing Phase I clinical trials.

Michael Kassiou
Professor. Academic Director, Drug Discovery Initiative, University of Sydney
Node Head, University of Sydney

Michael Kassiou is Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Head of MedChem Australia University of Sydney Node. He is the academic Director of the Drug Discovery Initiative at the University of Sydney and also serves as Academic Lead of the NSW Organoid Innovation Centre. He has significant experience in the discovery and development of small molecules for the study and treatment of CNS diseases and has been involved in several first-in-human studies. He has authored more than 310 peer-reviewed publications and co-founded spin-off companies, including Kinoxis Therapeutics who recently signed a $273M partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to investigate drugs that treat aggression and social withdrawal in people with a range of psychiatric disorders, and ProKardia Pty Ltd who have been awarded $1.2M from the TTRA program and CUREator to facilitate first-in-human studies of small molecule inhibitors of inflammation. His contributions have been recognised through several awards such as the Australian Museum Eureka Award for Leadership in Science and Innovation, the HG Smith Memorial Medal, the RACI Applied Research Award, and the Adrien Albert Award for Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

Jeff Mitchell
Head, National Drug Discovery Centre, WEHI
Node Head, WEHI

Jeff Mitchell is the Head of WEHI’s National Drug Discovery Centre (NDDC), which specialises in high-throughput screening to discover new compounds with potential to treat human disease. He is the co-head of the MedChem Australia WEHI node. Jeff is an accomplished medicinal chemist, with over two decades of experience in small molecule drug discovery and a demonstrated track record of collaboration with the biomedical research community. Before joining WEHI, he was a Principal Research Scientist at Biota Pharmaceuticals, where he played a critical role on a number of small molecule anti-infective projects. Among these were a human orthopneumovirus program, which progressed from hit to Phase 2 clinical trials in partnership with MedImmune and AstraZeneca, and a Clostridium difficile program that was successfully licensed to Taxis Pharmaceuticals. Jeff has extensive experience in designing small molecule screening libraries and holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of Melbourne.

Guillaume Lessene
Professor. Theme Leader, New Medicines and Advanced Technologies, WEHI
Node Head, WEHI

Guillaume Lessene is a medicinal chemist co-head of the MedChem Australia WEHI node. He is the head of the New Medicines and Advanced Technologies Theme, at WEHI which comprises basic research driven by structural and chemical biology, translation of basic discoveries into new medicines together with clinical research, and cutting-edge technologies. His major research focus has been the development of small molecules that target apoptotic and necroptotic cell death pathways. His work targeting the BCL-2 family of proteins for cancer therapy formed the basis of a major collaboration between WEHI and two pharmaceutical companies, Genentech and AbbVie. This tripartite collaboration led to the development of venetoclax, the first BH3-mimetic approved by the US Federal Drug Agency (FDA) for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

Olivia Ross-Hurst
Senior Project Officer
Operations Manager, MedChem Australia

Olivia Ross-Hurst the MedChem Australia Operations Manager, based at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) in Melbourne. Olivia is an experienced operations manager with a background managing complex multi-partner collaborative research and public health programmes. Prior to moving to Melbourne in 2023, Olivia worked at UK thinktank The Health Foundation, managing a portfolio of analytical workstreams supporting research and policy in health and social care, focusing in particular on tackling healthcare inequalities. Prior to this, Olivia was responsible for the management of several large-scale infectious disease programmes at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), including Ebola vaccine projects EBOVAC 1 and 2 trials, the substantial HIV prevention trial PopART, and the tuberculosis modelling and analysis consortium, TB-MAC.

Selection and Review Committee

President, Royal Society of New South Wales.
SRC Chair, NSW

Dr Susan Pond AM is a physician, scientist and company director with deep expertise in biotechnology. She qualified with first-class honours in medicine and surgery at the University of Sydney, Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of New South Wales, and Doctor of Science degree and Doctor of Medicine honoris causa from the University of Queensland. She was Professor of Medicine at the University of Queensland and chaired the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee. Dr Pond then held executive positions in the biotechnology industry, including as Chairman and Managing Director of Johnson & Johnson Research Pty Ltd. Thereafter, she served as non-executive director in industry, academia and government, directed the University of Sydney Nanotechnology Institute, chaired AusBiotech Ltd, chaired the NSW Smart Sensing Network, and continues as non-executive director of several organisations and as member of Council of the Queensland University of Technology. Dr Pond has been President of the Royal Society of New South Wales (RSNSW) since 2021. She is a Fellow of the RSNSW, the Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) and the Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS).

Dr. Chris Burns
CEO and Managing Director, Amplia Therapeutics.

Dr Burns is Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Amplia Therapeutics. He is an experienced drug discovery leader who has worked in various roles in pharma, biotech and academia for 30 years. He has a PhD in chemistry from the University of Melbourne and following postdoctoral studies in the USA and working at Pfizer UK, he returned to Australia, where he forged his career leading high performing teams in drug discovery research. As Head of Medicinal Chemistry for Cytopia, Chris led teams in the discovery of two anti-cancer agents that entered clinical trial, including momelotinib, which has recently been approved for the treatment of myelofibrosis. He later worked at WEHI as a Laboratory Head, before moving into executive and leadership roles with privately held biotechnology companies, including Certa Therapeutics and MycRx. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) and the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. He was the recipient of the 2022 Adrien Albert Award for sustained, outstanding research in the field of medicinal chemistry or chemical biology.

Dr. Shea Carter
Business Development Portfolio Manager, QIMR Berghofer.

Dr. Carter is Business Development Portfolio Manager at QIMRB, where she leads programs to develop early stage drug discovery and medtech innovation. Previously, Shea was a Principal Scientist at Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research (NIBR), where she ran pre-clinical drug discovery projects in musculoskeletal and inflammatory disease areas for 8 years. Shea’s experience is primarily with small molecule drug discovery, with extensive experience in target validation and target ID technologies. She has led multidisciplinary drug discovery teams, including chemistry and in vivo pharmacology, and worked closely with computational biologists to map MoAs of drug candidates from phenotypic screens and to identify druggable targets from genetic datasets (CRISPR and siRNA screens, GWAS). During her time at Novartis, she was also a scientific advisor on selected NIBR BD&L opportunities and worked with the team at Novartis Venture Fund to review investment opportunities from early stage start-up companies across a broad range of therapeutic areas.

Dr. Brian Dymock
Head of QEDDI, UniQuest.

Dr. Dymock is Head of QEDDI, UniQuest, working on small molecule preclinical drug discovery. He has greater than 25 years’ experience in drug discovery research and development in pharmaceutical companies, biotech and academia. He was Associate Professor in Medicinal Chemistry at the National University of Singapore and previously Head of Chemistry for S*BIO Pte Ltd in Singapore, where his team was responsible for the discovery of Pacritinib, Pracinostat, TG02, VS-5584 and two other clinical candidates. Pacritinib was approved by the FDA in 2022 for myelofibrosis patients with low platelets. Brian led the chemistry team at Vernalis which discovered Luminespib in collaboration with the Institute of Cancer Research. Brian has also been a Department Manager at Evotec and a Team Leader at Roche UK. He earned his PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Glasgow. Brian has served as an Editorial Advisory Board Member for the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Prof. Philip Hogg
Professor of Protein Science, University of Technology Sydney. Head, ACRF Centenary Cancer Research Centre, Centenary Institute

Prof. Philip Hogg graduated with a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Queensland. Following post-doctoral training in the USA and Sweden he returned to Sydney as a NHMRC RD Wright Fellow and is now a NHMRC Level 3 Investigator. Prof. Hogg is the leading international authority on protein disulphide bonds. He has demonstrated that disulphide bonds are neither fully formed nor inert in proteins and are remarkably dynamic bonds that control protein function. He invented small molecules that target functional disulphides which have application in cancer diagnosis and therapy. He is the founding scientist of Amplificare Pty Ltd and PENAO Pty Ltd.

Dr. Martine Keenan
Chief Innovation Officer, SYNthesis Research. Chief Operating Officer, Anaxis Pharma

Dr Martine Keenan is an experienced drug discovery and development scientist and life sciences executive with a 25-year career in the sector. Martine joined the UK arm of the multinational pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly Ltd as a synthetic and medicinal chemist and rose rapidly through the ranks to lead drug discovery programs and multidisciplinary teams. Martine moved to Australia in 2008 taking up a position at Epichem Pty Ltd, a commercial chemistry services company. She was appointed Head of Drug Discovery in 2009, and in 2018, CEO and Executive Director. Martine joined SYNthesis Research in 2021 as Chief Innovation Officer and is Chief Operating Officer for Anaxis Pharma. She is experienced in all phases of preclinical discovery from project ideation to the delivery of preclinical candidates, IP creation, project due diligence, strategic management, and commercialisation. Martine is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and recipient of the Export Councils’ WA Women in International Business Award in 2019.

Dr. Gabriel Kremmidiotis
Chief Scientific Officer, Avance Clinical.

Dr. Kremmidiotis is Chief Scientific Officer of Avance Clinical where he leads the Department of Scientific and Medical affairs offering Medical Writing, Drug safety monitoring and reporting and early phase clinical drug development and regulatory advice services. He has 26 years’ experience in medical research and drug development, mostly in the biotechnology industry, managing drug development programs from early discovery to completion of phase II proof of concept clinical trials and subsequent commercial drug licensing deals. Prior to joining CPR Pharma Services, Gabriel was the Vice President Research & Development at Bionomics Ltd. Gabriel has a diverse scientific background spanning the fields of Clinical Development, Drug Discovery, Cancer Biology, Molecular Genetics, Bioinformatics and Immunology.

Angela Luttick
Executive VP, Commercial, 360biolabs.

Angela Luttick is a virologist with more than 20 years’ experience in the discovery, development and commercialisation of novel drugs. Well accustomed to leading multidisciplinary teams and experienced in the generation and integrity of key discovery-stage biological data required for the preparation of IND packages used in filing numerous FDA submissions. Angela is a co-founder and Executive Vice President, Commercial at 360biolabs and leads business development and commercialisation strategies for the company.

Dr. Lorna Mitchell
VP, Drug Discovery, Certa Therapeutics.

Dr Lorna Mitchell is VP, Drug Discovery at Certa Therapeutics and an independent consultant. She is a medicinal chemist with over 20 years of international drug discovery experience. She is an inventor on over 40 patents and has been directly involved in the delivery of 10 drug candidates to the clinic. She spent the first 10 years of her industry career at Pfizer working at sites in both the USA and the UK. Following this large Pharma experience, Dr Mitchell working in oncology focused biotechs in Boston for seven years,. She has experience across a range of therapeutic areas including oncology, CNS, dermatology, antivirals, inflammation, and inhalation.

Dr. Amy Prawira
CEO, Obatica. Head, Cancer Trials and Research Unit, Prince of Wales Hospital

Dr Amy Prawira is the founder and director of Obatica. She is a medical oncologist and Head of Cancer Trials and Research Unit (CTRU) at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney. She completed a clinical fellowship at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada where she served as Chief Fellow for the Drug Development Program. Her fellowship focused on early drug development and head and neck malignancies. Until 2020, she built and led the Precision Medicine Phase I Unit at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. She has been an investigator in over 90 early phase clinical trials and has been involved in the design and set up of a number of investigator-initiated studies. Dr Prawira has extensive experience in developing and refining clinical trial protocols, investigator’s brochure (IB), patient informed consent form (PICF), clinical study report (CSR) for a number of academic collaborators and partnering biotech and pharmaceutical companies. She currently serves as a teaching faculty member for the Asia Pacific Clinical Oncology Research Development (ACORD) workshop, scientific committee member of the Asia Pacific Oncology Drug Development Consortium (APODDC) and is also a conjoint lecturer for UNSW Sydney.

Prof. Kate Schroder
Director, Centre for Inflammation and Disease Research, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland

Professor Schroder heads the Inflammasome Laboratory and is Director of the Centre for Inflammation and Disease Research at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), University of Queensland, as an NHMRC Leadership Fellow. Her research interests include the molecular mechanisms governing inflammasome activity and caspase activation, the cellular mediators of inflammasome-dependent inflammation, and mechanisms of inflammasome inhibition by cellular pathways and small molecule inhibitors. Kate is a co-inventor on patents for small molecule inhibitors of the NLRP3 inflammasome, currently under commercialisation by Inflazome Ltd. Inflazome Ltd was recently acquired by Roche in a landmark deal – one of the largest in Australian and Irish biotech history. Two of the company’s drug candidates are in clinical trials for the treatment of debilitating conditions such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and motor neuron disease.

Dr. Damian Slizys
Director of Intellectual Property, Telix. Managing Director, Kobold Capital.

Dr Damian Slizys is Director of Intellectual Property at Telix
and Managing Director at Kobold Capital, an early stage life sciences fund manager and corporate advisory group. He is a registered patent attorney and formally served as Partner at FPA Patent Attorneys and FB Rice. He has a doctorate in Chemistry and more than 20 years’ experience working in pharma and biotech industries.

Dr. Tracey Wilkinson
Director, Stakeholder Engagement, Western Australia, MTPConnect.

Dr Tracey Wilkinson is Director,Stakeholder Engagement Western Australia for MTPConnect. Previously she was the Commercialisation and Partnerships Manager for the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth where she was responsible for identifying, assessing, developing and commercialising opportunities with a focus on sponsored research activities and the building of large-scale engagement and strategic initiatives. During her time there she also co-founded and led the WA Digital Health Accelerator pilot program. She has a background in molecular genetics, gaining a PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Melbourne, based at the Howard Florey & Walter and Eliza Hall Institutes. Prior to her PhD, she was also the Co-Founder of an online bioinformatics analysis service. Her business development experience was with Melbourne Ventures at the University of Melbourne, where she worked to commercialise early stage technologies and IP developed at the University.