American Australian Association

Australia at the Forefront of Medical Research

Speaker Bios








Nicola Watkinson
General Manager, The Americas, Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade)

In August 2016 Nicola Watkinson was appointed by Austrade to serve as Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner for North America, responsible for its network of offices covering New York, Boston, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Washington, as well as Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.

Nicola joined Austrade in 2003 following a career in the private sector in the UK and with the Victorian Government in Melbourne. Nicola’s career in Austrade spans Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner for South Asia, Consul General Frankfurt, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, West Europe, Global Head of Investment and Senior Investment Commissioner for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

She has also worked in North Asian markets with a particular focus on Japan, China and Korea. Nicola has sat on the advisory board of groups such as CSIRO (Australia’s premier research organisation), Industry Capability Network, Australia China Business Council and Australian Business in Europe.







David Thomas
Director, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre
Head, Cancer Theme, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Chief Executive Officer, Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Centre
Conjoint Professor, St Vincent’s Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW

Prof Thomas is Head of the Cancer Theme at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, and Director of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre. He is a NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and medical oncologist whose focus is on the application of genomic technologies to the understanding and management of cancer. Prof Thomas founded the Australasian Sarcoma Study Group, a national research organisation, and established Australia’s leading adolescent and young adult cancer unit at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Dr Thomas leads the International Sarcoma Kindred Study, now recruiting from 23 centres in 7 countries, and led the first international study of denosumab in Giant Cell Tumor of bone, leading to FDA and TGA approval. He has over 150 research publications, including lead or senior author papers in Cancer Cell, Molecular Cell, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Lancet Oncology, JAMA Oncology, and Journal of Clinical Oncology. Since moving to NSW, he has established the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Centre, a national precision medicine program for patients with rare and early onset cancers. In 2018, he was President of the Connective Tissue Oncology Society, the peak international body in his field. He has created a national program in genomics medicine – the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program – unifying for the first time the major cancer centres in every state and territory, as well as three of Australia’s leading research organizations (WEHI, Garvan, NHMRC CTC).






Vanessa Tyrrell

Program Leader, Zero Childhood Cancer
Co-Head of Theme, Personalised Medicine, Children’s Cancer Institute
President, Human Genetics Society of Australia

Ness is Co-Head of the Personalised Medicine Theme, and Program Leader of the Zero Childhood Cancer National Precision Medicine Program at Children’s Cancer Institute, with accountability for establishing and sustaining the Program, ensuring efficient, effective, and medically responsible delivery of all aspects of the program, and building it into a sustainable national precision medicine platform in the long term. Vanessa is a Fellow of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia (FHGSA), Associate of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (ARCPA), and has obtained Masters in Business Management (MBA) and BScBiomed.

With close to 30 years of experience in genetic testing she has extensive knowledge of clinical diagnostic genetics service delivery in both public and private sectors, laboratory management, accreditation, and quality assurance. She has experience in the global genomic and molecular biology industry with senior leadership of the AsiaPac region; managed genomics projects and policy development nationally for the RCPA, interacted with the Federal Department of Health and Medical Service Advisory Committee on genomics guidelines and pilots, and is a past member of the NHMRC’s Human Genetics Advisory Committee.  She is currently a member NSW Health Genomics Strategy Translational Medicine Committee and President of the HGSA. These experiences provide her with unique insight and diversity of skills drive her commitment to tackle laboratory, clinical service delivery, commercial, and policy challenges of the increasingly translational and clinical application of rapidly emerging and evolving technologies that are advancing the development and implementation of precision medicine models of care.





Professor Ian Alexander 

Head, Gene Therapy Research Unit, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and Children’s Medical Research Institute
Professor in Paediatrics and Molecular Medicine, University of Sydney
Senior Staff Specialist, Genetic Metabolic Diseases Service, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead

Professor Alexander is head of the Gene Therapy Research Unit, a joint initiative of Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and Children’s Medical Research Institute in Sydney. Within the hospital he also holds appointments as a senior staff specialist and Director of laboratory research. His training and day-to-day activities in both clinical medicine and laboratory research reflect his interest in translating research progress into improved health outcomes for children.

After finishing specialty training in paediatrics he obtained a PhD in Molecular Biology from the Garvan Institute in Sydney before completing clinical genetics training at the Murdoch Institute in Melbourne. He then undertook postdoctoral studies at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, returning to Australia to take up his current position. His specific expertise and interests include virus-mediated gene transfer with a focus on metabolic liver disease and primary immunodeficiencies.

He is currently Associate Editor for Human Gene Therapy and The Journal of Gene Medicine and an Editorial Board Member for Molecular Therapy – Methods & Clinical Development. He is as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and a Visiting Professor at University College London. In 2017 he was appointed as Co-Chair, NSW Health Genomics Steering Committee and in 2018 appointed as a member of the NSW Health New Technology and Specialised Services (NTASS) Committee and Commonwealth Health Genomic Screening Working Group of the Standing Committee on Screening.






Elizabeth Koff

Secretary, NSW Health

Elizabeth has held a number of Senior Executive roles within the NSW health system, across operational and policy portfolios.

Elizabeth was appointed Secretary, NSW Health in 2016. As Secretary, Elizabeth is responsible for the management of the NSW health system ($24 billion budget and 118,000 FTE) and setting strategic direction to ensure NSW continues to provide exceptional healthcare, research and education.

Elizabeth is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology Sydney, a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), NSW President of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) and a member of Chief Executive Women.






Matthew Osborn

Senior Tax Manager, KPMG LLP

Matthew is a Senior Manager based in San Francisco. Matthew has approximately 13 years of tax consulting and advisory experience, acquired through a variety of roles with KPMG in the United States, Australia, and Canada.

Matthew combines his experience with formal qualifications in Biochemistry and Accounting to provide tax and strategic advice to clients, ranging from start-ups to large multinational corporations.

Prior to joining KPMG in the US, Matthew worked for KPMG in Australia for 8 years, and gained significant experience in the preparation and defense of Australia R&D Tax Incentive (RDIT) claims for clients within various industry sectors, and predominately the Industrial Manufacturing, High Technology, Life Sciences, and Engineering and Construction sectors.

Further, Matthew has significant experience with managing multi-jurisdictional R&D reviews, for clients in a range of industries.