Keynote Speakers

Douglas E Brash, PhD
Senior Research Scientist in Therapeutic Radiology and in Dermatology, Clinical Professor of Therapeutic Radiology,                                                           
Skin Diseases Research Center, Yale Medical Center,
New Haven, CT


Douglas E. Brash is Professor of Therapeutic Radiology and Dermatology at Yale University. After receiving degrees in Engineering Physics and Biophysics, he joined the William Haseltine laboratory at Harvard to apply DNA sequencing techniques to DNA repair and mutagenesis. At the National Cancer Institute and then Yale, his laboratory identified DNA photoproducts responsible for UV mutations, used UV signatures to identify genes mutated by sunlight in the course of generating skin cancers, showed that one of these genes, p53, is needed for UV-induced apoptosis to remove cells that otherwise would lead to cancer, and that this apoptosis also drives clonal expansion of mutant cells once they arise.

Most recently the lab showed that chemical excitation of electrons in melanin, "chemiexcitation", generates mutagenic DNA photoproducts long after UV exposure ends. Current interests include blocking the pro-cancerous effects of melanin and investigating the role of UV in tumor evolution.

Michael A. Davies, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine, Deputy Chair, Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology,
Co-Leader of Melanoma Moon Shot Program,
Director of Research Activities, Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program,
The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center,
Houston, TX


Dr. Davies earned his medical and doctorate degrees from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. He completed his clinical residency training in internal medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and his medical oncology fellowship at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Davies is the Deputy Chairman and associate professor in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, with joint appointments in the Departments of Systems Biology and Translational Molecular Pathology. Dr. Davies is a physician-scientist whose research utilizes integrated approaches to study the regulation and clinical significance of oncogenic signaling networks in cancer, particularly in therapeutic resistance and in the molecular pathogenesis of brain metastases.

Dr. Davies has been the principal investigator of both individual and team science peer-reviewed grants from several organizations, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the Melanoma Research Alliance, and the Melanoma Research Foundation. He has served as the principal investigator of several clinical trials for patients with metastatic melanoma, and has authored or co-authored >100 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals including Cell, Cancer Cell, Cancer Discovery, Cancer Research, and Clinical Cancer Research. Dr. Davies is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Melanoma Research Foundation Breakthrough Consortium, the International Melanoma Working Group, and he is the co-leader of the MD Anderson Melanoma Moon Shot Program.

Hopi Hoekstra, PhD
Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Curator of Mammals in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology,
Professor of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology,  Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator,
Harvard University, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology,
Cambridge, MA


Hopi E. Hoekstra is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and the Curator of Mammals in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Her research focuses on uncovering the molecular and developmental basis of traits that affect fitness of individuals in the wild. To this end, she studies naturally evolved diversity in color and color patterns in wild rodents.

Rudy Jaenisch, PhD
Professor of Biology at MIT, Founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research,                                                                       
Cambridge, MA


Rudolf Jaenisch is a Founding Member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and a Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a pioneer in making transgenic mice, some of which have produced important advances in understanding cancer, neurological and connective tissue diseases, and developmental abnormalities and has explored basic questions such as the role of DNA modification, genomic imprinting and X chromosome inactivation. The laboratory is renowned for its expertise in cloning mice and in studying the myriad factors that contribute to the success and failure cellular reprogramming.

More recently the lab has focused on using the iPS cell system to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Autism. Dr. Jaenisch is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences and the International Society for Stem Cell Research. In 1996 he was honored with the Boehringer Mannheim Molecular Bioanalytics Prize, in 2001 was the recipient of the first ever Peter Gruber Foundation Award in Genetics, in 2002 won the Robert Koch Prize for Excellence in Scientific Achievement, the March of Dimes Prize in 2015 and in 2011 was a recipient of the United States National Medal of Science. In 2014 he was president of the ISSCR.

Richard Marais, PhD
Director at CRUK Manchester Institute,                                                                                       
Manchester, United Kingdom


Richard Marais' key aim is to translate our basic research findings into patient benefit. In collaboration with Professor David Barford (ICR, London), we solved the crystal structure of the BRAF kinase domain. This taught us how BRAF is regulated and we used that information to perform a BRAF drug discovery programme in collaboration with Professor Caroline Springer (ICR, London). Critically, we found that while BRAF drugs inhibit cell signalling in melanoma cells carrying mutations in BRAF, they activate cell signalling in cells that carry mutations in NRAS. This paradox occurs because BRAF drugs drive the formation of hetero and homo-dimers between BRAF and a closely related family member called CRAF. This drives CRAF and downstream pathway hyper-activation and in some situations tumourigensis. In particular, we have shown that this paradox can drive the formation of non-melanoma skin lesions in patients treated with BRAF inhibitors and have also shown that it can drive cell survival in drug-resistant chronic myeloid leukaemia.

Dennis R. Roop, PhD
Professor of Dermatology and Director of the Charles C. Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine,                                                                       
University of Colorado,
Denver, CO


Dennis Roop's laboratory has a long standing interest in identifying genes required for normal skin development and understanding how they function. We have discovered that defects in some of these genes cause inherited skin diseases characterized by a very fragile skin, which blisters easily and may result in neonatal death. Defects in other genes required for normal skin development predispose individuals to develop skin cancer.

We are currently generating induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) from patients with inherited skin fragility syndromes using methods which do not require viral vectors, and determining whether genome editing techniques can be used to correct the genetic defect in these patient-specific iPSCs. Our ultimate goal is return keratinocytes derived from genetically corrected iPSCs to the same patient as an autograft. My laboratory is also isolating and characterizing skin cancer stem cells. An improved understanding of cancer stem cells could result in the development of novel therapeutic strategies that specifically target cancer stem cells for destruction and prevent tumor recurrence.

Sarah Tishkoff, PhD
David and Lyn Silfen University Professor, Departments of Genetics and Biology Perelman School of Medicine, School of Arts and Sciences,
University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia, PA


Sarah Tishkoff is the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor in Genetics and Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, holding appointments in the School of Medicine and the School of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Tishkoff studies genomic and phenotypic variation in ethnically diverse Africans. Her research combines field work, laboratory research, and computational methods to examine African population history and how genetic variation can affect a wide range of practical issues – for example, why humans have different susceptibility to disease, how they metabolize drugs, and how they adapt through evolution. Dr. Tishkoff is a recipient of an NIH Pioneer Award, a David and Lucile Packard Career Award, a Burroughs/Wellcome Fund Career Award and a Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) endowed chair. She is on the editorial boards at PLoS Genetics and G3 (Genes, Genomes, and Genetics). Her research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Jeffrey Weber, MD, PhD
Deputy Director of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, Co-Director, Melanoma Program and Head of Experimental Therapeutics,
New York University - Langone Medical Centre,
New York, New York


Dr. Weber is the Deputy Director of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, Head of Experimental Therapeutics as well as Professor of Medicine at the NYU-Langone Medical Center in New York City. His research interests lie in the monitoring and characterization of T cell responses to immunotheraoeutic treatments in cancer patients, and in the establishment of in vitro models to facilitate the understanding of how immune modulating antibodies amplify T cell responses in patients. He is also interested in the mechanisms by which achieving autoimmunity induces regression of cancer. His clinical interests are in the immunotherapy of melanoma and other malignancies, with a focus on adoptive immunotherapy, epigenetic therapy and the use of immune modulating antibodies