veski fast smarts panelists

Professor Ian Smith – veski chair, Vice-Provost (Research & Research Infrastructure), Monash University


After 14 years at the Baker IDI Medical Research Institute, Ian moved to Monash University in 2004. After a period as Deputy Dean Research in the faculty of Medicine, Ian was appointed in 2011 as Vice-Provost (Research & Research Infrastructure). In this role, he has responsibility for the oversight and management of the university’s technology transfer and entrepreneurial activities, research alliances and research infrastructure as well as developing and implementing strategies to meet future university technology transfer, research, and research infrastructure needs.

He is also a Professorial Fellow in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University where he runs his research group. Ian is an accomplished medical researcher and is recognised as a leader in his field. This research has resulted in over 240 publications and many patents. Ian receives regular invitations to speak at international meetings, many as a plenary speaker. His research has had a direct impact on human health and has led to changes in clinical practice. Ian is a co-founder of a proteomics-based, publicly listed, biotechnology company and he continues to collaborate and consult widely with the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. Ian serves on six international editorial boards and over the years he has held office-bearing positions in a number of national and international societies and has had an active involvement in the organisation of numerous national and international scientific meetings. Finally, he has held and continues to hold, a variety of national and international senior government and non-government advisory board/committee memberships, including his position as chair at veski since 2015.


Councillor Jackie Watts, City of Melbourne (Chair of the Knowledge City portfolio)


Dr Jackie Watts holds a Doctorate in Education (RMIT), postgraduate qualifications in Teaching and Librarianship (University of Melbourne) and a Bachelor of Arts (La Trobe University).

Her areas of professional expertise include secondary and tertiary education, librarianship, research, vocational training and professional development, commerce (small and medium enterprises) and community activism. She has experience in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors, on and offshore.

Prior to joining Council in July 2011, Jackie volunteered with the Office of the Public Advocate in the Independent Third Person Program and the Prison Disciplinary Program. In the past, Jackie has participated in social empowerment programs such as the Equity Research Centre, Social Inclusion Program, Church of All Nations Carlton, Timor Leste Training Network, Uniting Church Foster Parenting Program and is a long term supporter of Foster Parents’ Plan Australia. Jackie enjoys classical music, dance, literature, architecture and dabbles in the creative arts.

Dr Vihandha Wickramasinghe, Peter McCallum Cancer Centre


Dr Vihandha Wickramasinghe’s paradigm-shifting research focuses on understanding the fundamental biology of gene expression and how it is altered in the development of cancer cells. The goal is to find new ways to intervene when normal quality control processes within the cell go awry.

Vi’s mother died from breast cancer when he was 18 years old and - as the latest in a family of renowned Australian scientists – he is driven to understand the underlying biology of how RNA is made and how it is altered in cancer, in the hope of creating advanced attacks against the disease.

In March this year Vi was presented with a veski innovation fellowship worth $150,000 over three years for his research. The funding of this fellowship will be matched in cash and in-kind by his host organisation Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Now Head of the RNA Biology and Cancer Laboratory at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Vi was born in Canberra and educated at the University of Melbourne. He spent the past 13 years at the University of Cambridge, where he completed his PhD and Post-Doctoral studies on scholarship.  While in the UK, he established his current research program investigating the molecular basis of how mRNA is selectively processed and exported from the nucleus into the cytoplasm and its emerging links to cancer. His research findings have helped generate a new and original area of research which may lead to potential new targets for anti-cancer therapy.

Ms Samantha Ludolf – Deputy Director, Strategy and Operations, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research


Samantha Ludolf has 15 years’ experience in leadership positions across the government and not-for-profit sectors and in the justice, health and medical research industries.

She has a proven track record of strategy development based on innovative solutions to complex environments and successful implementation and execution.

A highly connected influencer and excellent communicator, Samantha energises teams and stakeholders to drive change using data to gain insights and measure success. Values-led, Samantha’s strengths include a focus on creating culture, structures and processes that best supports the organisation’s people and attracting top talent. Samantha also has sound financial and digital acumen and ensures she sets organisations up for a robust future including secure funding and building a strong reputation. She is passionate that not-for-profits be built on a strong professional base with long term strategies, financial security and strong diverse leadership in place to ensure they make an excellent community contribution.

Currently Sam is Deputy Director, Strategy and Operations at the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, ensuring it builds on its reputation as a world leader finding cures for cancers and the next major discoveries in treating medical conditions.

Hon Philip Dalidakis - Minister for Small Business Innovation & Trade


Philip Dalidakis is the Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade in the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria, Australia. Mr Dalidakis was elected as a member of the Victorian Parliament in November 2014 and was appointed to Cabinet in July 2015.

Since Philip's Ministerial appointment in 2015, he has worked hard to strengthen Victoria's reputation as a regional tech hub by engaging the local startup community and attracting leading global companies (including Zendesk, GoPro and Slack) to establish a regional presence in Victoria.

The Minister believes Victoria is well placed to be a leader in cyber security education, research, policy and entrepreneurship. As such, he recently announced the development of the Oceania Cyber Security Centre (OCSC), which will bring together eight Victorian universities, the Melbourne-based Defence Science Institute, major private sector partners and Oxford University’s world leading Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre (GCSCC) to create a cyber security powerhouse in Victoria. An additional partnership, brokered between the Labor Government and the digital research arm of the CSIRO, Data61, will see them co-locate their lead national cyber security centre with the OCSC.

Another important part of Mr Dalidakis' portfolio is the delivery of the Labor Government's $60 million startup initiative, LaunchVic, which was created to accelerate startups, drive new ideas and create jobs in Victoria. This new body will invest in core infrastructure, improve access to capital for local startups, advocate on legislation and regulation, as well as engage in local sector events.

Ms Julia L Page – veski chief executive officer


Ms Julia L Page was appointed chief executive officer of veski in 2004 after a career spanning the public, private and philanthropic sectors in Australia and the United Kingdom.

As the head of veski, Julia leads a team responsible for the continued development and delivery of veski’s programs focused on talent acquisition and support, global engagement and veski testbed activities. 

Julia has taken an active lead in inspiring women across Victoria and around the country. In 2015, Julia was instrumental in the development of the inspiring women program and inspiring women fellowships. In 2017, Julia was appointed as a veski director.

Julia has also maintained a strong working relationship with the Victorian Government and established strong connections with Victoria's science and innovation communities. veski's relationship with the Victorian Government has resulted in the organisation being asked to deliver other Victorian fellowship and award programs on behalf of the Victorian Government.

Julia completed a Bachelor of Science in Information Business Systems Technology at the University of Essex, before beginning a career in IT sales and strategic planning; skills she continues to draw and build upon in her current roles. In addition to her work with veski, Julia sits on the board of the St Vincent’s Foundation Council and is a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is the Secretary to the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trust.


Ms Michelle GallaherCo-Founder & Director The Social Science


A master networker in lifesciences, business, government and the media, Michelle Gallaher is a living rolodex of names, faces and technologies in Australia.  She is focused on helping public and private innovation-centric organisations understand how to influence to achieve outcomes using social and mainstream media, marketing and brand strategies coupled with relationship strategies targeted at government, investors, advocates, collaborators and users. 

Previously the CEO of the largest geographic cluster of biotech and medtech in Australia, she is the co-founder of a new social media consultancy exclusively for the science and technology sector, called The Social Science and co-founder and director of Women in Science Australia, an advocacy organisation supporting women in STEM with more than 10,000 members. 

For over 20 years Michelle has worked in numerous influencing and development roles in biotech, research organisations and the healthcare sector. She has held and continues to hold leadership roles in the Victorian science and medical research industry in universities and companies as a non-executive director, on various government advisory committees on lifesciences and health and is a recognised champion of gender equity and diversity and the advancement of clinical trials in Australia. Renowned for loving a microphone and a soapbox, Michelle is an accomplished speaker, appearing at TEDx Melbourne and regularly on webinars, podcasts and the conference circuit.

Professor Colby Zaph – veski innovation fellow, Monash University


Professor Colby Zaph is a Canadian researcher, born in Regina, Saskatchewan, who moved to Australia in 2015 to become a veski innovation fellow at Monash University. Professor Zaph obtained his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Saskatchewan in 1995 before moving to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. Here he obtained his PhD with research focused on CD4 T cell memory during leishmaniasis.

Professor Zaph remained at the University of Pennsylvania for his postdoctoral work, collaborating on the regulation of mucosal immunity to helminth infection. In 2008, he returned to Canada as an independent investigator at the University of British Columbia. Colby continued to develop his outstanding record of research achievement. He has published 23 manuscripts, with 10 as senior author, in leading and influential journals such as Developmental Cell and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Professor Zaph is a veski innovation fellow and Head of the Laboratory of Mucosal Immunity and Inflammation in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University. 

Ms Kerri Lee Sinclair – Chief Investment Officer: Technology and Innovation, Kin Group

Kerri Lee has over 20 years’ experience working across the high-growth technology eco-system, from co-founding her own start-up which was sold to Microsoft in 2007, to working in senior roles in some of Australia's leading technology businesses, including Looksmart, Intelematics and Aconex. 

She recently joined a family office, leading the investment of private capital into select high-growth technology companies. Kerri Lee is co-chair of SBE Australia, a non-for-profit that runs women-focused accelerator programs like the Springboard Enterprises Accelerator Program (which she did in the US in 2000). In Australia alone, the Springboard Enterprises program has helped 36 women raise over $120 million of venture capital, including 2 exits and 1 IPO.

Kerri Lee is also an Innovation Expert on the Victorian Government's Innovation Expert panel, and advises several start-up businesses.



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