About Us // Our People //

Our People

The Early Career Steering Committee was set up with the aim of supporting and facilitating the ongoing career development of early career researchers within the MWC. The Committee's goal is to help EC researchers develop and succeed within the MWC through organising events and providing opportunities for EC researchers to get together, discuss their work and build collaborative networks across New Zealand.

Early Career Steering Committee

Dr Chris Guise
c.guise@auckland.ac.nz

Chris is a member of the Translational Therapeutics Team based at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC). His research focus is the development of new anti-cancer drugs that target features of the tumour microenvironment. It is well documented that cancers develop a poor blood supply which limits delivery of oxygen to the cancer environment. As such, regions of severe low oxygen are a common feature of cancer, whilst being absent in healthy tissue. These hypoxic cancer regions are strongly associated with disease progression, metastatic spread and resistance to treatment. One approach to eliminate these treatment-resistant cancer cells is the development of hypoxia-activated prodrugs. These prodrugs are designed to exhibit minimal toxicity in healthy tissues but become activated to potent anti-cancer drugs selectively within hypoxic tumour regions. His research has played a key role in helping to understand the mechanisms of action of two clinical stage prodrugs developed in the ACSRC, PR-104 and Tarloxotinib Bromide.

 

COMMITTEE CHAIR Dr Joanna Hicks
joanna.hicks@waikato.ac.nz

Joanna is a post-doctoral researcher in Professor Vic Arcus’ lab at the University of Waikato. She received her PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2011. She then spent 3 years at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Biochemistry, researching transcription and post-transcriptional regulation in the remnant chloroplast of malaria. Her current research has two main themes, focusing on toxin-antitoxin systems and transcriptional regulation in pathoegnic bacteria and enzyme engineering and inhibitor design.

 

Dr Wanting Jiao
wanting.jiao@vuw.ac.nz

Wanting completed her PhD in Chemistry in late 2011. She was a postdoctoral research fellow in Biomolecular Interaction Centre at University of Canterbury from 2012 to May 2017. She is currently a Scientist in the Ferrier Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington. Her research is focused on using molecular modelling techniques (e.g. molecular dynamics simulations) to study enzymic actions.

Dr Iman Kavianinia
i.kavianinia@auckland.ac.nz

Iman is a Research Fellow at the University of Auckland. He received his M.Sc. degree in Medicinal Chemistry, and his PhD in carbohydrate chemistry. During his PhD at Massey University, he studied the stimuli sensitive polysaccharide-based hydrogels as colon targeted drug delivery vehicles of protein and peptide drugs. Since 2015, he has conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Auckland, under the supervision of Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble. Iman’s main research interests are in the areas of antibody-drug conjugates, including the development of potent drug payloads and novel linker systems. He also has an interest in total synthesis and structure-activity relationship studies of naturally occurring peptides with anticancer and antimicrobial activity.

Dr Sunali Mehta
sunali.mehta@otago.ac.nz

Sunali Mehta is a Research Fellow at the Department of Pathology, University of Otago. Her main research interest focus on several aspects of cancer biology including understanding the cell cycle and how its dysregulation leads to development of cancer, understanding the role of p53 (tumour suppressor gene) and YB-1 (an oncogene) in cancer, analyses of large databases to improve biological understanding of cancer, bioinformatic analyses of RNA expression in cancer and other disease from next generation sequencing and microarrays to identify molecular markers that translate into clinical applications.

Ms Marina Rajic
m.rajic@massey.ac.nz

Marina has graduated in Pharmaceutical Engineering from University of Novi Sad, Serbia and is now based in Palmerston North as a Massey PhD scholar. Since 2015 she works in Phage Display Laboratory under the supervision of Dr Jasna Rakonjac. In collaboration with Dr Kathryn Stowell from Massey University, Dr Ian Hermans from Malaghan Institute, and Dr Gavin Painter from Ferrier Institute she is developing a new cancer vaccine for melanoma immunotherapy, and an ultra-sensitive diagnostic assay for cancer biomarkers using phage display, bio-nanotechnology, and synthetic chemistry methods. Marina is interested in improvement of science to business communications and biotechnology commercialization in New Zealand.

Dr Euan Rodger
euan.rodger@otago.ac.nz

Euan is a Research Fellow in the lab of Professor Mike Eccles in the Department of Pathology, Dunedin School of Medicine. His earlier work focused on proteomic investigation of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. However, currently he is using his expertise in molecular biology, epigenetics, and bioinformatic analyses to investigate different aspects of cancer biology. These include identification of novel candidate biomarkers and drug targets for melanoma, development of blood-based diagnostic tools, and profiling of circulating tumour DNA to monitor tumour relapse.

Dr Brie Sorrenson
b.sorrenson@auckland.ac.nz

Brie is a Research Fellow in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology at the University of Auckland. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanisms underpinning the development of metabolic diseases like diabetes, with emphasis on hormones controlling metabolism. A major focus of this work involves determining the exact mechanisms of insulin secretion from pancreatic b-cells and her other main areas of research include investigating the role of the Wnt signalling protein b-catenin and its interaction partners in vesicle secretion across various cell types and using induced pluripotent stem cells to study b-cell development and function in a human context.

Dr Catherine Tsai
j.tsai@auckland.ac.nz

Catherine completed her PhD in 2015 at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology, University of Auckland, under the supervision of Associate Professor Thomas Proft. Her PhD project focused on the functional analysis of a unique type of Group A Streptococcus pilus. Upon graduation, she continued as a postdoc in the Proft Lab, working on an innovative peptide vaccine strategy utilising the pilus structure.   Catherine loves people, animals, science, and the nature. She spends her free time tramping, running, doing yoga, eating delicious foods with her husband and playing silly games with her baby daughter.