veski's portraits of innovation

Forward propulsion

Family, community and curing cancer all rank highly in the life of Professor Ygal Haupt – as does cycling, which brings him into twice-daily contact with two of his favorite things about Melbourne: openness and greenness.

Every morning Ygal winds his way 13 kilometres along a creek and a river to his desk at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. “It’s a wonderful way to start and then to finish the day,” Ygal says. “I also ride at weekends and I took part in the Ride to Cure Cancer,” he says.

Ygal, whose name means ‘to liberate’ in Hebrew, returned from the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical Jerusalem to head up a new laboratory in Tumour Suppressor Biology at Peter Mac, and was awarded a veski innovation fellowship in February 2009.

Ygal’s motivation, to discover new targets for cancer therapy and diagnostic bio markers for early cancer detection, is boosted every day as he shares the lift with cancer patients. “It’s not a cliché to acknowledge that it moves me. I get shaken up when I see kids with cancer. I have two sons and a daughter and seeing the kids at Peter Mac under treatment is an energy injection. The cancer research field is tough.”

For Ygal, moving back to Melbourne was more than a work-related decision, it was a family decision made with his wife Dr Sue Haupt, who now shares the same lab at Peter Mac. The choice to come here had to accommodate three teen-aged children – Adi, Nathan and Aran – and what tipped the balance for the Haupts was how much support, both financial and other kinds, there was from veski and Peter Mac, as well as knowing that the State of Victoria wanted his knowledge and expertise brought back here.

“The decision to return to Melbourne was made much easier with the backing of veski,” he says. “What comes with veski was not fully appreciated at the time but it became apparent later. At the welcome ceremony I was introduced to people with whom I am now collaborating on papers. The link to scientists in Melbourne and the prestigious award meant a lot to me and led to an NHMRC grant, meaning recognition and research funding. The introduction to companies, businesses and industry has enabled more connections beyond my field and that’s unique. veski has helped me to leverage even further the collaborations and connections I’ve formed,” he says.

Ygal says if he has an initiative, veski is one of the first doors he’ll knock on to get things going. “I can actually use veski’s commitment to get things done,” he says.

When he returned to Australia, Ygal aimed to establish a community in his field of research, so he approached veski, who put their support in writing which he was able to leverage to get further support nationally and internationally.

Ygal was later invited to host the biggest international meeting in his field in Melbourne in 2015. Ygal says it will be the first time such an event has been held in Australia, this will “place the local research community on the international map” and foster vital connections to enable greater advances in Australia’s contribution toward curing cancer.

“This goes back to that knock on the veski door.”