Invited Speakers

Dr Amanda Chamberlain

Research Scientist, Agriculture Victoria

Dr Amanda Chamberlain undertook her PhD at the University of Melbourne, under the supervision of Professor Michael Goddard on mapping QTL for milk production in dairy cattle and using them in marker assisted selection. She joined what is now known as Agriculture Victoria as a post-doctoral scientist where she has been involved in the implementation of genomic selection in the Australian dairy industry, the 1000 bull genomes consortium and more recently the Functional Annotation of Animal Genomes (FAANG) consortium. Dr Chamberlain is currently working on sequencing the bovine genome and identifying regions involved in regulating gene expression.

Brian Dalrymple

Adjunct Professor, The University of Western Australia, Australia

After more than thirty years at CSIRO Brian Dalrymple is now an Adjunct Professor at The University of Western Australia. Brian has undertaken a wide range of research projects that used molecular biology, genomics and bioinformatics methodologies to address problems in animal production and disease. In his early days at CSIRO Brian was involved in the development of a recombinant vaccine for sheep foot rot. As part of a large project to increase the digestion of low quality forages Brian developed recombinant rumen bacteria expressing novel fibre degrading enzymes. The application of bioinformatics to antibiotic development was his next target, leading to the development of a small spin-off company from CSIRO. Brian led the international teams that designed the first commercial single nucleotide polymorphism chip for sheep and delivered the first three assemblies of the sheep genome. He has also had a long term interest in gene expression as part of a systems biology approach to understanding the functional genomics of key biological processes in animal production. Brian has applied these approaches to the deposition of lipid as intramuscular fat and most recently to the functions of the gastrointestinal tract, in particular the rumen of sheep and cattle.

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Peter Dearden

Professor, Biochemistry Department, University of Otago, New Zealand

Peter Dearden is a Professor in the Biochemistry Department, University of Otago, and Director of Genomics Aotearoa, a national network that aims to improve the use and value of genomics in New Zealand. He trained as an evolutionary developmental biologist focussing on the evolution of traits in insects. During his career he has worked on many species, but became fascinated by bees and their ability to produce different phenotypes in response to their environment.

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David Gorkin

Associate Director, UCSD Center for Epigenomics, USA

Dr. Gorkin is the Associate Director of Epigenomics at the UCSD Center for Epigenomics, where he directs a team of researchers in developing and applying epigenomic technologies to a answer a variety of questions related to basic and clinical research. Prior to joining the Center, Dr. Gorkin was the project manager for the San Diego ENCODE data production center led by Dr. Bing Ren, and remains an active contributor to the ENCODE and 4D Nucleome consortia. He was also an A.P. Giannini Foundation postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Ren’s laboratory, where his research focused on the roles of histone modifications and 3D genome organization in the regulation of gene expression. Dr. Gorkin received his Ph.D. in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where his work in Dr. Andrew McCallion’s lab focused on the epigenomics of melanocytes (pigment cells), and their role in human pigmentation.

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Dr James Kijas

Research Group Leader, CSIRO Agriculture, Australia

Dr Kijas is a genome scientist who has developed an international reputation in the field of animal science. Following completion of his PhD in plant genetics (1996), James embarked on a research career focused on the genetics and genomics of domesticated animals. As a postdoctoral scientist guided by Prof. Leif Andersson (SLU, Sweden), he identified a collection of gene mutations responsible for inherited traits in pigs and dogs. He moved to Cornell University in 2000 under the guidance of Prof. Gus Aquirre and successfully identified the genetic basis of a number of inherited canine eye diseases, and was awarded his first research grants as a principal investigator. He joined the CSIRO Division of Livestock Industries in 2003 and has been instrumental in the development and delivery of a range of genomic tools for sheep. These have included pilot scale SNP arrays, the ovine SNP50 BeadChip and the reference genome assembly. Using these SNP arrays, he has completed studies into the population history and genetic diversity of sheep breeds as well as a sequence based analysis of wild bighorn sheep populations. In the last couple of years he has initiated a research program focussed on farmed Atlantic Salmon, studying sex determination, the functional biology of sexual maturation, genetic diversity and selection. He currently holds the role of Research Group Leader in CSIRO Agriculture and is based in Brisbane, Australia.

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Sue Lamont

C.F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University, USA

Sue Lamont has been a faculty member in the department of Animal Science at Iowa State University for 35 years, and is currently a C.F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor. She leads an active research program with an emphasis on determining the molecular genetic control of important biological traits of poultry, especially those related to host response to stressors such as heat and pathogens. She enjoys extensive national and global research collaborations. Sue has published over 200 peer-reviewed journal papers. She has won numerous awards, including the Helene Cecil Leadership Award, the Embrex-Pfizer Fundamental Science Award and the Merck Award for Achievement from the Poultry Science Association. Sue is an elected Fellow of both the Poultry Science Association and of the International Society of Animal Genetics.

David MacHugh

David MacHugh

Professor, School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Ireland

David MacHugh obtained a BA (Mod) degree in Genetics from Trinity College Dublin in 1988 and undertook PhD research in animal genomics at TCD. His postdoctoral work on livestock paleogenomics was funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Bioarchaeology. In 1999 he took up a lectureship in University College Dublin and was appointed Professor in 2009. He is currently the Associate Dean for Research, Innovation and Impact at the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science. He is also a Conway Investigator (, co-founder and Scientific Advisor to Equinome/Plusvital Ltd. ( and a co-founder and member of the Scientific Advisory Board of IdentiGEN Ltd. ( David’s research programme is focused on functional genomics of host-pathogen interactions for Mycobacterium bovis infection and development of novel disease biomarkers for bovine tuberculosis. Other research activities include livestock production genomics; population genomics of extinct and modern livestock populations; and in collaboration with Associate Professor Emmeline Hill, genomics of health and performance traits in Thoroughbred horses.

Michael K. Skinner, Ph.D.

Eastlick Distinguished Professor, Center for Reproductive Biology,School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University

Dr. Michael Skinner is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University. He did his B.S. in chemistry at Reed College in Portland Oregon, his Ph.D, in biochemistry / chemistry at Washington State University and his Postdoctoral Fellowship at the C.H. Best Institute at the University of Toronto. He has been on the faculty of Vanderbilt University and the University of California at San Francisco. Dr. Skinner’s current research has demonstrated the ability of environmental toxicants to promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease phenotypes due to abnormal germ line epigenetic programming in gonadal development. Dr. Skinner has over 300 peer reviewed publications and has given over 288 invited symposia, plenary lectures and university seminars. He has founded several biotechnology companies.

Dr Tim Smith

Dr Tim Smith

USDA ARS Meat Animal Research Centre

Dr. Smith holds a B.S. degree in Microbiology from Montana State University and Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Oregon. He has been working in the field of livestock genomics since 1992, at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska, a part of the USDA Agricultural Research Service. He was raised to “supergrade” status (roughly equivalent to Distinguished Professor) within the ARS system in 2010. His studies have identified genome variation underlying muscle hypertrophies and recessive disease, and provided DNA markers associated with a variety of production traits in cattle. Recently, he has been a leader in application of new technologies to create greatly improved reference genome assemblies for multiple species. He has led USDA efforts to develop systems approaches that integrate genomics and traditional genetics with microbiome and immune repertoire studies to examine respiratory disease, an important concern in beef cattle production in the U.S. Dr. Smith is a Writing Team Leader for both “Genomics Tools and Resources” and “Microbiome” sections of the “2018-2028 Genomes to Phenomes Blueprint” to guide investments of the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture grants programs, and the Agricultural Research Service Office of National Programs, through the next decade.

Dr. Tad Sonstegard

Chief Scientific Officer, Acceligen

Dr. Tad Sonstegard is currently Chief Scientific Officer of Acceligen, a Recombinetics company, where he leads both business development and research efforts dedicated to discovery and precision breeding of causative sequence variants in food animals. A main goal is to apply genome editing for livestock genetic improvement that promotes sustainability and animal welfare. Previously at the USDA-ARS Beltsville, he led a genomics research program developing applications in germplasm conservation and genetic improvement that included the first commercially successful, ag-based SNP tool. He also identified causative variation affecting fertility and thermo-tolerance in cattle and has led consortia to generate genome assemblies of the water buffalo, goat, Zebu cattle, and an expression atlas of cattle. Dr. Sonstegard received his undergraduate degree from Iowa State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. His has published 193 peer-reviewed articles and has received award recognition for his work in genomic research for livestock genetic improvement.

Claire Wade

Professor Claire Wade

Chair of Computational Biology and Animal Genetics, The University of Sydney

Claire Wade began her career in quantitative genetics before making the leap to genomics in 2002 when she began a position with the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The genomics group at the Whitehead later became one of the founding groups of what is now the Broad Institute. While in the USA, Claire worked on several mammalian genome projects including the mouse, dog and horse (for which she was the lead researcher). Claire’s research interests include unravelling the secrets of genome biology using next generation sequencing. In particular, she studies the application of new genomic technologies to improve our understanding of diseases and behavioural traits in domestic animals and wildlife and our understanding of the links between DNA and phenotype in general. Projects currently underway are as diverse as studying the genetics of durability in Thoroughbred race horses, finding genes underlying canine separation anxiety and working dog performance, improving captive animal management using new genetic resources, and better understanding the genomics of behaviour. Other projects involve mapping genes causing congenital disorders in dogs including cleft palate and deafness using whole genome association analysis and genotyping by sequencing.

Dr. Yanfang Wang

Institute of Animal Science, Chinese Academy Agricultural Sciences

Dr. Yanfang Wang received her Ph.D. degree in animal genetics and breeding in 2004 in Huazhong Agriculture University, China. From 2005-2011, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher in field of animal functional genomics in United States. Then, she was appointed as a research assistant professor at University of Missouri at Columbia (2012-2014). In 2014, she was recruited as a full professor at the Institute of Animal Science, Chinese Academy Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) in Beijing. Dr. Wang’s research interests are mainly focused on investigating molecular and cellular mechanisms of adipose formation and deposition using mice and pig models; discovering the agriculturally useful candidate genes that can impact important economic traits for potential pig breeding.

Professor Christine Wells

Director, Centre for Stem Cell Systems, University of Melbourne, Australia
Deputy Program Lead, Stem Cells Australia
ARC Future Fellow
Chair, Stem Cell Systems, University of Melbourne
Honorary Fellow, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Emeritus Professor, The University of Queensland, Australia.

Professor Christine Wells is the Chair of Stem Cell Systems, an ARC Future Fellow and Founding Director of the University of Melbourne Centre for Stem Cell Systems. Christine is a genome biologist interested in tissue injury and repair. She leads a program of research across three pillars of impact and output: (1) collaboration platforms for data integration and visualization for the stem cell community; (2) bioinformatics method development; and (3) stem cell models of inflammation. Christine leads the stem cell collaboration resource which hosts the largest compendium of curated stem cell data with >300 public stem cell datasets consisting of ~10,000 stem cell samples, used to generate definitive signatures of stem cell subsets and their differentiated progeny.