12 January 2018
It has been an eventful few years for young researcher Dr Claire Vennin, who completed her PhD studies at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in 2017 and submitted her thesis to the University of New South Wales. Her thesis is entitled “Transient tissue priming via ROCK inhibition uncouples pancreatic cancer progression, sensitivity to chemotherapy, and metastasis.”
In recognition of her extraordinary productivity during her PhD studies, Dr Vennin was awarded the 2017 Garvan Thesis Prize.
Dr Vennin performed her work in the Cancer Division’s Invasion and Metastasis Laboratory, under the supervision of Associate Professor Paul Timpson and Dr Marina Pajic.
Her research focused on developing new therapeutic approaches for pancreatic cancer, establishing new laboratory models of cancer and using state-of-the-art technology to optimise therapies and monitor their effects on living tumour tissue.
A/Prof Timpson congratulates Dr Vennin on her many successes.
“Claire is one of the most innovative and naturally gifted scientists I know. She has shown unwavering enthusiasm and dedication to her research, and the output from her PhD has been remarkable – she has published eight first-author papers, in addition to contributing to 13 other publications,” he says.
One of Dr Vennin’s studies uncovered a promising new approach to treat pancreatic cancer, which involves targeting the tissue around the tumour, softening it to make the tumour more responsive to chemotherapy. The findings were published as front cover and feature article in the prestigious journal Science Translational Medicine.
For her thesis introduction, Dr Vennin performed a comprehensive review of worldwide scientific reports on approaches for reshaping the pancreatic tumour environment to improve therapeutic outcome, and her review was published recently in the highly respected journal Gastroenterology.
The list of Dr Vennin’s accomplishments is lengthy. In 2016, she received a Stuart Furler Travel Award, awarded annually to third-year PhD students at Garvan. The award enabled her to travel to Europe, where she presented her research at the 'Cancer Precision Medicine: Making it Personal' conference in Amsterdam, and visited a number of research institutes to develop collaborations with other experts in the field.
Dr Vennin’s awards also include a competitive scholarship from Sydney Catalyst in 2015 and the Best Translational Research Poster prize at the Cell Signalling and its Therapeutic Implications conference in 2017.
Dr Vennin is currently continuing her research at Garvan, but will be leaving Australia later this year for a post-doctoral position at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) in Amsterdam.
She says, “At Garvan, the culture of collaboration between scientists working on diverse research areas has enabled me to develop my skills and achieve what I have. I am very grateful to Garvan and to my supervisors Paul and Marina for the amazing opportunities they have given me throughout my PhD.”
A/Prof Timpson says, “Claire has achieved an enormous amount in such a short time frame, and has a bright future ahead of her. She shows true potential as a leader in the field of cancer research.”
Previous recipients of the Garvan Thesis Prize are:
2016 – Christoph Jandl
2015 – Elisabeth Malle
2014 – Saul Bert
2013 – Sean Humphrey
2012 - David Chang
2011 - Paul Lee
2010 - Helen McGuire
2009 - Rebecca Hinshelwood
2008 - Sandra Gardam
2007 - Samantha Oakes
2006 - Kate Jeffrey
2005 - Jerry Greenfield
2004 - Marcel Batten
2003 - Andrew Biankin
2002 - Jason Caroll
2001 - Gabrielle Howard
2000 - Kathy Samaras
1999 - Jacqueline Center
1998 - Tuan Nguyen
1997 - David Hoffman