As we approach the end of the year and the holiday shutdown period, we’d like to wish our colleagues, collaborators and friends a happy festive season and best wishes for the new year. We’d also like to take this opportunity to celebrate some of the highlights from the year at Cancer Therapeutics CRC.

Events

In June, Cancer Therapeutics CRC held its annual mid-year review. Senior project members, senior management, the scientific advisory board and key stakeholders met to review the progress of the CRC and its research. The meeting was very productive and constructive discussions were held with the SAB members. It was at this meeting that we gave our thanks and farewelled the SAB members, who will no longer meet in an official capacity, as the CRC nears its completion date.

Cancer Therapeutics CRC had a presence at many events during the year and presented our STING research to an international audience for the first time at SITC 2019 in Maryland. Poh Sim Khoo and Nicole Haynes attended the conference, presented the STING poster for hours, and let their hair down in the ever-expanding dance circle at the Checkpoints band party on the final night.

Poh Sim Khoo and Nicole Haynes at their STING poster at SITC 2019

We have sponsored a small number of local symposia, including the Melbourne Immunotherapy Network Winter Symposium, the Innovation to Translation Symposium, Functional High Throughput Technologies Australia Annual Meeting and BioConnections, where we also had a display stand. Theresa Connor and Amelia Vom were in attendance at the stand and handed out our brand-new flyers to interested delegates.

Amelia Vom and Theresa Connor at the BioConnections Symposium

In addition, Cancer Therapeutics CRC co-hosted another Drug Discovery and Development in Oncology symposium alongside MSD in October this year. The Symposium was a great opportunity to meet with and hear from senior leaders in a high-profile pharmaceutical organisation along with key local talent, including our very own, Brendon Monahan. The Symposium was a great success and a solid example of the role that Cancer Therapeutics plays in enhancing the local ecosystem.

Research Highlights

This year we’ve published our research in a number of prestigious journals including two publications in Nature. Congratulations to all our collaborators and co-authors on their achievements.

One of the highlights out of our GU team this year was the acquisition of the Biomek i7 Automated Workstation, which will optimise their workflows and increase our high-throughput capacity. The Biomek i7 has already been utilised in screening for one project and protocols have been built with dual-arm configurations for future projects.

The team at Griffith University with their new Biomek i7

Personnel

This year we have welcomed Erin Evans to the CTx Operations Team, Tin Yow to the team at CCI and Lorna Mitchell to the SAB. Sadly, we have bid farewell to Michelle Zajac from the Operations Team, Miriam Butler from Peter Mac, Pulari Thangavelu and Melanie de Silva, Sukhdeep Spall and Anderly Chueh from WEHI. We will shortly also say goodbye to Elizabeth Allen from WEHI and Kah Ni Tan from Griffith. Mark Devlin and Warwick Tong have also departed the CTx Management Team and Ian Street will shortly join them at CTxONE after his retirement from WEHI, and therefore Cancer Therapeutics CRC, at the end of the year.

There have been additional changes within the Management Team this year. Our CSO Brendon Monahan has moved from WEHI to Head up the Drug Discovery Translational Research Centre at Peter Mac. His role as CSO remains unchanged. Rebecca Moss and Rhiannon Jones were promoted to Associate Director roles to reflect their increased responsibilities and Alex Stupple was promoted to Research and Alliance Manager to reflect her changing role following Michelle’s departure.

Towards the end of the year Brett Carter stepped down from the role of CEO so that he could focus his time on the new organisation that will continue after the CRC has finished up. Our Board Chair, Tony Evans, has stepped into the CEO role and continues as CEO and Chair, while our Business Director, Lisa Dubé has been promoted to the role of Deputy CEO.

Collaboration

The Pfizer collaboration kicked off in February this year with a two-day meeting at the VCCC in Melbourne. Representatives from Pfizer travelled to Australia and were joined by staff from Cancer Therapeutics CRC, and scientists from the research groups involved in the collaboration. The meetings and social events proved fruitful and Pfizer left very happy with the expertise of the teams involved. Since then, there have been multiple teleconferences and another face-to-face meeting with the Pfizer team in October. The collaboration has been productive to date and and great relationships have been established.

End of Year Celebrations

‘Tis the Season for Joy and this year is no exception. There have been End of Year parties held at each of our locations. In Melbourne, we took over the African Tent at Polé Polé (pronounced poh-lay poh-lay) and dined on a selection of modern African fusion dishes. A highlight of the evening was the quiz which came down to a nail-biting tie-break where the winning team correctly identified the CTx CRC Twitter handle (@cancercrc for those who don’t know!). The evening ended with a cracker pulling competition. If you lost, you had to wear your party hat home on public transport and prove it. Rhiannon, Brendon, Brett, and Alex all wore their hats home and we’re not quite sure who the winner was.

The Melbourne-based teams at their end of year party at Pole Pole

The following week Brett and Brendon flew up in Brisbane to join the GU team. Angela Hillsdon wrote, ‘we enjoyed our EOY CTx party at Donna Chang,* a beautiful fine dining Chinese restaurant inside one of Brisbane’s most magnificent heritage buildings, the old Queensland Government Savings Bank circa 1914. We had the chance to exchange views and opinions with Brett and Brendon admiring the high ceilings and intricate carvings of the room. Later, we moved to the Boom Boom room, which is the underground bar of the restaurant with hidden old vaults where we all got to know more about our CEO and CSO, and the future of CTx whilst consuming increasingly strange and weird cocktails!’
*On a side note – Seinfeld fans will recognise the restaurant’s name from the iconic ‘The Chinese Woman’ episode, which is where it came from. The Donna Chang fortune cookies even have Seinfeld quotes inside.

In Sydney, Lisa, Ylva and Brendon joined the CCI team for their party at the Thai restaurant Long Chim. They did a great job of catering for dietary requirements and one team member who had a shellfish allergy by the end of the night was surrounded by little individual as it dishes turned out shellfish was in nearly everything! The night finished across the lane at the Angel Hotel and Poh said of the evening ‘it was a good night all round.’

The CCI team at their end of year function at Long Chim

Award Winners

At the final Town Hall of the year, we announced the winners of the annual awards. This is an opportunity for us to reflect on our successes and acknowledge those who have contributed to our achievements. Congratulations to all the following winners and to all of our nominees.

Best Project: ENPP1
Best Project Leaders: Ben Morrow and Nicole Haynes
Best Biology Innovation: Jezrael Revalde
Best Chemistry Innovation: Jonathan Hubert
Best Business and/or Operational Innovation: Rhiannon Jones
Best Team Player: Theresa Connor

Two of our awards are given out to those who embody the values of Cancer Therapeutics CRC and are named in honour of Cancer Therapeutics Alumni. The Streety Award in recognition of excellence and integrity was awarded to Matthew Dennis and the Tong Award in recognition of leadership and mentoring was awarded to Rebecca Moss.

Awardees Rebecca Moss and Matthew Dennis with CSO, Brendon Monahan, CEO and Chair, Tony Evans and Deputy CEO, Lisa Dubé

Thank you and best wishes

On behalf of all the staff at Cancer Therapeutics CRC, we’d like to say thank you to all the people and organisations who have supported us and played a role in the CRC’s achievements throughout the year. We wish you a happy and restful break over the festive season and we look forward to working with you towards more success in 2020.

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