Professor Neil Watkins
Media Release: 19 December 2013
The Garvan Institute of Medical Research is very pleased to announce that Professor Neil Watkins will assume the inaugural Petre Foundation Chair of Cancer Biology from January 2014.
Professor Watkins is a clinician-scientist who trained in Perth before moving to the Kimmel Cancer Centre at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, where he worked for 11 years. He returned to Australia in 2009, and currently holds the positions of Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Professor of Cancer Biology at Monash University.
The scope of his work is broad, encompassing tumour biology, epigenetics and developmental biology. He is particularly interested in understanding how aberrant activation of embryonic signalling pathways can be therapeutically targeted in lung, colorectal and breast cancer. His work on the ‘hedgehog pathway’ - a molecular communications network that promotes cancer growth - has led to the development of new therapies in several international clinical trials in medulloblastoma, an aggressive childhood brain tumour.
Professor Watkins will be located in The Kinghorn Cancer Centre (TKCC), a joint venture of Garvan and St Vincent’s Hospital. TKCC houses patients, clinicians and researchers with the aim of bringing research breakthroughs rapidly to the bedside.
The experience of working at a similar purpose-built cancer centre in the United States has stayed with Watkins, and is the main reason he is moving to Sydney to work at TKCC. “At Johns Hopkins, all the clinicians, scientists, patients and facilities were in one place, and that was great,” he said.
“When that happens, people discuss ideas over lunch or coffee, and in the end, patients benefit because they have more opportunity to participate in clinical trials and research.”
“The beauty of TKCC is that it’s one of the best cancer centre models we have in Australia. It’s a unique building and a unique vision.”
“In terms of technology and the genomics vision that now prevails at Garvan, I believe that TKCC is going to be an incredibly successful cancer centre. All the scientists, patients and doctors will be in one spot, talking to one another.”