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


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.


Dr Dan Furkert

Dr Dan Furkertis a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Auckland, supervising Prof Margaret Brimble’s natural products research group in the School of Chemical Sciences. He obtained his PhD in 2003, followed by postdoctoral stints in the US in the total synthesis of complex marine toxins and the UK in medicinal chemistry & pharmacology. His interests radiate from organic synthesis, including new reaction development and natural product synthesis, and its application to research questions at the interface of chemistry and biology such as enzyme inhibitor design and GPCR pharmacology.

Dr Joanna Hicks

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 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 Jodie Johnston

Jodie is a structural biologist currently based at the University of Auckland. She has a background in chemistry and biology and a fascination for understanding biology at the molecular level. This interest has driven her research career which has focused on understanding bacterial protein structure and function. She explores fundamental questions on how bacterial proteins are folded into 3D structures, how they function and interact with other biomolecules within bacteria. She also investigates how we can exploit this information to develop novel antimicrobial therapies. She also has an interest in science communication and outreach and helping to support and mentor students to develop their skills as scientists.​


Dr Sunali Mehta

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.