Our Team
We are leaders in NK cells, cancer immunology, drug discovery, functional genomics, gene editing and cell therapy. We are driven by the challenge of engaging the immune system to fight cancer, and focused on delivering the first truly effective NK cell immunotherapies.

Management

Scientific Advisory Board

Management

Jai Rautela, PhD (Co-founder & CEO) obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Melbourne and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, followed by a post-doctoral position at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute under the mentorship of Professor Nicholas Huntington. Jai went on to become the youngest founder of a biotech start-up company in Victoria and completed his MBA at Australia’s top-ranked business school. As an ambassador for the city through his role in the Committee for Melbourne, Jai also sits on the board and organising committees of various non-profit organisations that deliver healthcare and education to underprivileged members of the local community.

Professor Nicholas Huntington, PhD (Co-founder & CSO) leads the Cancer Immunology Laboratory at the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University. During the past 15 years he has made seminal contributions to the field of natural killer (NK) cell biology including: regulatory mechanisms of IL-15 signalling in NK cells, defining the human and murine NK cell differentiation pathways, novel xenograft models to study human NK cell biology and identification of multiple checkpoints in NK cell activation and tumour immunity. Professor Huntington has been recognized as an international leader in NK cell biology through several awards (including; the Burnet Prize, John Dixon Hughes Medal, AAS Jacques Miller Medal, RG Menzies Award, Human Frontiers Science Program Fellowship, NHMRC Fellowship and High Commendation for the Victorian Premier’s Award) and has a track record of commercially licencing NK cell checkpoints.

Christine De Nardo, PhD (General Manager) joined oNKo-innate Pty Ltd in October 2019, bringing more than 10 years of expertise in research management at medical research institutions in Australia and Germany.

Christine obtained a PhD from the Department of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, Australia in 2009. Since then she has built a strong foundation in the coordination and management of collaborative academic and commercially-driven research programs, multinational competitive funding applications, technology transfer agreements and research contracts with major industry partners.

She began as Scientific Coordinator of the Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), before taking on Scientific Coordinator and General Manager roles at the University of Bonn in Germany. During this period, she played a key role in the establishment of the ImmunoSensation Cluster of Excellence, securing EUR 28 million from the German Research Foundation (DFG). Concurrent with this, Christine also managed the PR and Communications strategy for the Life and Medical Sciences Institute in Bonn, Germany. Since returning to Australia, Christine has acted as Scientific Coordinator of the Chemical Biology Division at WEHI and more recently as Scientific Coordinator within the Biomedicine Discovery Institute, at Monash University.

Joe Cursons, PhD (Computational Biology & Bioinformatics Lead) obtained his PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Auckland and held positions at AgResearch Ltd and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute in New Zealand, before moving to Melbourne in 2013. Since then he worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Melbourne before joining the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research as a Senior Research Officer in 2016.

Joe has a strong background in applying computational and mathematical methods to advance pre-clinical drug development and identify putative new drug targets or treatment strategies. Since moving to Melbourne Joe has focussed on analysing data from next generation sequencing technologies to understand regulatory programs that control cell behaviours involved in clinical cancer progression, and the effects of these programs on drug sensitivity. Through collaborations with the Cancer Therapeutics CRC in Melbourne Joe has been involved in several pre-clinical drug development programs with industry partners.

Iva Nikolic, PhD (Screening Lead) is a functional genomics expert with extensive experience in different technologies enabling high-throughput interrogation of gene function. After obtaining her PhD from Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, Iva moved to the Garvan Institute in Sydney where she developed a keen interest in genomics and large-scale functional screening. During this time, she performed one of the most comprehensive screens mapping the role of microRNA in cancer chemoresistance. Following her postdoctoral training, Iva joined Victorian Centre for Functional Genomics (VCFG) as a 2IC where she led drug screening campaigns spanning diverse technologies for novel target discovery. There she developed a fully automated, high-throughput CRISPR screening platform coupled with high-content microscopy and advanced image analysis. In her role at oNKo-innate, Iva heads a screening team developing functional assays to study primary human NK cells and their function in tumour immunosurveillance.

Richard Berry, PhD (Protein Engineering and CAR Design Lead) is a protein chemist and structural biology expert who has amassed over a decade’s worth of experience studying receptors that are expressed on the surface of NK and T cells. After receiving his PhD from the University of Manchester (UK), Richard moved to Monash University where he developed a research program that made significant contributions to our understanding of how NK cell receptors recognise self, viral and tumour-derived ligands. Richard’s contributions to the field has been recognised in the form of several awards, grants and fellowships from the IUBMB, ARC and NHMRC. Prior to joining oNKo-innate Pty Ltd, Richard was a Cross Family & Frank Alexander Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellow. In his role at oNKo-innate, Richard leads a team that is focused on developing innovative biological and cellular therapies that will transform cancer treatment.

Sacha Khong, PhD (Co-Cell Therapy Lead) is an expert in cell and vascular biology with a strong interest in developing the next generation of cell therapies through principles of immunology, stem cells and developmental biology. A vascular biologist by training (PhD), Sacha ventured into the field of regenerative medicine, drawn by the promise it holds in the development of new therapeutics. She nurtured this passion further with post-docs at Monash University and subsequently Stanford University. At Stanford, Sacha used computation methods to develop tools that would discern therapeutic potential, targeting subpopulations of stem cells and malignant cells that could be selected either for repair (wound healing) or destruction (malignant cells) of tissues respectively. She spent the next phase of her career on the commercial development, purification, and assessment of CAR T-cell technologies for immuno-oncology applications. Her multi-disciplinary approach to research is extremely valuable in developing effective cellular therapy.

Business Development

John Hughes after graduating from Melbourne University, John completed his chartered accounting qualification at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) working in audit services and taxation. He then worked at Bongiorno & Co before starting his own accounting practice in 1977. He is currently in the practice of Hotchkin Hughes Pty Ltd with a major interest in Self Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSF), having gained a sought after accreditation, the Specialist SMSF Adviser from CAANZ. He is also a registered auditor.

Dharnae Kern – after graduating with a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Commerce and Diploma of Modern Languages (German) from the University of Melbourne, Dharnae joined Goldman Sachs as an analyst within the Natural Resources team, covering Agriculture, Infrastructure, Oil & Gas and Metals & Mining (focused on mergers, acquisition opportunities, corporate financing and strategic advisory). Dharnae has since held a position at National Australia Bank as a strategy consultant and is currently an Associate Director at Grant Samuel corporate finance & advisory.

Kevin Molloy is Chief Financial Officer of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. In this role, he leads the financial, risk, actuarial, and internal audit functions at Guardian. This includes planning and reporting, tax, capital management, risk management, actuarial, treasury, and banking and ratings agency relationships. He took on this role shortly after joining the Company in 2019 as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Guardian’s Individual Markets business.

Prior to Guardian, Mr. Molloy held several leadership positions at AXA. His career there spanned 20 years, where he most recently served as their Managing Director and Head of Investor Relations of AXA Equitable Holdings. Additionally, he served as CFO of AXA Global Life upon initially relocating to Paris, France in 2010. There, he served as Senior Vice President of AXA’s Business Support and Development area and shareholder representative for several AXA entities, including AXA Equitable, AXA Life Japan, AXA Investment Managers, and AllianceBernstein.

Earlier in his career he was an Economist and Corporate Profits Analyst with the United States Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

He holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Connecticut.

Mr. Molloy resides in New York City with his family and is an avid cyclist.

Scientific Advisory Board

Associate Professor Thomas Gebhardt, MD PhD is a Senior Biomedical Research Fellow (Sylvia & Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation, 2016-2021) and laboratory head at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne).  He received training in clinical medicine and biomedical research at the Hanover Medical School, Germany, before joining the University of Melbourne in 2005. Over the past decade, Thomas and his team identified and coined ‘tissue-resident memory T cells’ (TRM) as the T-cell population that dominates immune protection at body surfaces. They also pioneered the in-depth functional and transcriptional characterization of TRM cells and more recently described an important function of TRM cells in suppressing the outgrowth of clinically occult melanoma lesions. Many of Thomas’ paradigm shifting contributions to the field of T-cell memory and peripheral immunity have been published in highly influential journals such Nature, Science and Nature Immunology.

Professor Fabienne Mackay, PhD obtained her PhD from Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France working at Hoffman La Roche Ltd in Basel Switzerland. Her past work on the cytokine BAFF, described in very highly cited articles, provided the knowledge foundation for the development of belimumab, an approved treatment for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).  Her group is focusing on inhibitors for the BAFF receptor TACI to treat SLE and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) while preserving key immune functions. She has published over 170 articles cited 17,000 times (h-index 65) and is the World’s most highly cited author on BAFF. She is the inaugural Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her industry experience includes 5 years at Biogen Inc., USA, co-founder of MabDesign Ltd and consultant to various pharmaceutical and Biotech companies like GSK, Eli Lily, and Board Member of ENA Ltd. She is an inventor on 176 submissions worldwide, representing 5 families of patents.

Associate Professor Joseph (Sefi) Rosenbluh is an expert in functional genomics and has made major contributions in our understanding of cancer signalling pathways as well as the development of high throughput genetic screening technologies. After completing his PhD at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel he moved to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT as a postdoctoral fellow and later as an instructor of medicine. Joseph has recently joined the faculty of Monash university and in addition to heading a research lab he directs a new functional genomics platform at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research. His recent focus has been on developing CRISPR technologies for loss of function screens, and new approaches such as genetic interaction mapping and high throughput RNA sequencing. In total, he has authored 25 research publications, many of which are influential publications in journals such as Cell, Cell Systems, Nature Genetics and Nature Communications.

Professor Mark Shackleton is the Director of Oncology at Alfred Health, a Professor of Oncology at Monash University, a Victorian Cancer Agency Clinical Research Fellow and Chair of Melanoma and Skin Cancer Trials Inc. After training in medical oncology and at the Ludwig Institute in Melbourne, he undertook PhD studies at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and post-doctoral work at the University of Michigan, USA. He has received several major prizes for his research: the 2006 Victorian Premier’s Award for Medical Research, a 2010 NHMRC Achievement Award, a 2011 Pfizer Australia Fellowship, and a 2016 Victorian Cancer Agency Clinical Research Fellowship. In 2012, he was awarded the Australian Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year.

Professor David Tarlinton, PhD was educated at University of Sydney (BSc) and Stanford University (PhD) before post-doctoral training with Prof. Klaus Rajewsky (Cologne, Germany) and Prof Gus Nossal (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI)). David became an NHMRC Research Fellow and Laboratory Head at WEHI in 1997, subsequently appointed Principal Research Fellow and Professor of the University of Melbourne before being appointed Professor and Head of Department of Immunology and Pathology at Monash University in 2016. David’s scientific work has focused on the differentiation of B lymphocytes, particularly during immune responses and autoimmune diseases. This has led to discoveries in the mechanisms of antibody secreting cell generation and survival during and after immune challenges and in autoimmune diseases. He was President of the Australasian Society for Immunology, recipient of a Distinguished Innovator Award from the Lupus Research Institute (USA), of the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Scientific Research and the Jacques Miller Senior Travel Award and made a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge UK, in 2015.

Dr. Mark Voskoboynik is the lead Phase I Trials Oncologist at Nucleus Network and a Medical Oncologist at the Victorian Melanoma Service and the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne. He is the Principal Investigator of a number of early phase, including first-in-human, clinical trials. He has a specific clinical interest in melanoma, lung cancer and urological malignancies. He is passionate about teaching and education and is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the Alfred Campus of the Monash University Central Clinical School. After completing his training in Australia as a Medical Oncologist, he spent 2 years undertaking a Clinical Research Fellowship at Guy’s Hospital and the drug development unit at Sarah Cannon Research Institute in London, UK. He has co-authored publications in peer-reviewed journals and presented at local and international meetings.