SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE

Dr. Alan Watts has had an extensive career, with experience in the fields of science, business and technology. Alan has an Honours degree in Science, for which he majored in Chemistry and Genetics, and he completed his Doctorate in Molecular Immunology at the University of Sydney.

Alan’s career has seen him in varied positions, including as post-doctoral scientist at the Weizmann Institute, Israel, as Scientific Director of a Sydney-based biotechnology company, and in the commercial division of pharmaceutical company Merck Sharpe and Dohme. Additionally, Alan has experience in business development, particularly in the context of start-up companies.

Alan currently holds the position of Associate Medical Director in the ANZ division of US pharmaceutical company AbbVie. In addition to being Board member and Chairing the Science Committee of the muscular dystrophy-focussed FSHD Global Research Foundation, Alan gives his time for a second not-for profit medical philanthropic organisation in his role as Trustee of the Wenkart Foundation.

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Chairman

Bill is an Australian businessman and philanthropist with expertise in real estate, banking, funds and asset management.

Bill spent 23 years as a senior executive and Executive Director with Macquarie Group, the pre-eminent Australian investment bank, where he managed The Global Banking and Real Estate businesses. Bill founded, grew and led Macquarie Real Estate Group to a point where it managed over $30 billion worth of investments around the world.

Bill Moss was responsible for creating and building businesses in the areas of real estate investment, property funds management, finance and banking, tourism and leisure, and mortgage banking. At the time of his resignation in December 2006, the business had grown to over 1,400 staff, located in USA, Europe, UK, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia, which led to one of Macquarie Group’s most profitable businesses. Bill has been a director of eight listed property trusts and one listed infrastructure trust.

Bill was the Co-Chair of the Territory 2030 Steering Committee and part of Australia’s 2020 summit.

Bill is a commentator on the Australian finance and banking sectors, the global economy, and the ongoing need for Australia to do more to advance the interests of the country’s disabled and disadvantaged.

Having donated his time over 30 year period to being a Founder, Director and Patron of some fourteen charities and community groups, in 2015, Bill was awarded one of Australia’s highest honours, Office of the Order of Australia (AO), for services to the banking, charity, and finance sectors.

Bill is currently Chairman of Moss Capital, Chairman of Boston Group of Companies and non-executive director of Elanor Investments Pty Ltd. Bill is Chairman and Founder of The FSHD Global Research Foundation.

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Managing Director

Natalie Cooney is an entrepreneurial philanthropist at heart. Having grown up with FSHD in her family, she is burning to finding treatments and an ultimate cure for FSHD. Her infectious passion, professionalism, expertise in the field and personal story drives her and her team to fight to improve the quality of life for people living with this muscle wasting disease.

Volunteering for the Foundation since its establishment, she recently took reign as Managing Director, and in a short period of time has been quick to achieve, innovate and motivate, setting a new tone, pace for research, brand and voice to the award winning charity – changing the culture of giving, bringing transparency and accountability to the sector, and dramatically increasing fundraising and community engagement, expanding world class medical research by 35% within her first year: driven to improve diagnostics, therapeutics and clinical trials for FSHD.

Hope is what drives the community to survive. The community drives me to provide the hope for a cure”.

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Medical Science Liaison

Dr. Victoria Dokic is currently Head of Science at FSHD Global Research Foundation. Her main role entails managing and overseeing all scientific activities of the Foundation, including actively seeking partnerships opportunities with researchers to find a treatment and cure for FSHD.

Victoria has been involved in research and pharmaceuticals for nearly 15 years’ and holds a PhD in Cardiovascular Medicine. She has also been involved in several entrepreneurial ventures, including winning $100,000 in the University of Queensland Enterprize Business Plan Competition. For several years. Victoria worked in the Medical Affairs division for large multinational companies AstraZeneca and Bayer and helped facilitate research and medical educations activities in the Cardiology and Thrombosis therapeutic areas. Her passion is to improve patient care and outcomes through research and innovation. Victoria regularly attends research conference, pharmaceutical networking events, has a keen interest in start-up companies. She was also a semi-finalist for both the South Australian Young Achiever of the Year and the SA Community Achievement Awards.

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Director

Dr. Pradnya Dugal MBBS (Hons) FRANZCR is a radiologist practicing in Sydney.
Graduating with First Class Honours from the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine, she undertook her specialist training at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, graduating as a dual gold medallist from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiology. Dr. Dugal has undertaken subspecialty radiology fellowships in the USA at New York University and Thomas Jefferson University. She is a founding partner of the Synergy Radiology network of medical imaging practices throughout Sydney, which also provides radiology services to various hospitals including St Vincent’s Private Hospital, Blacktown Hospital and Hospital for Specialist Services.

She provides diagnostic and interventional radiology services, with subspecialty interests in cardiac imaging, musculoskeletal imaging, and women’s imaging. She has received many academic, professional and business accolades, including Business Person of the Year 2013 for Auburn Medical Imaging, and Professional of the Year 2015 at the India Australia Business and Community Awards. She has served as a Board Director and Council Representative for Radiology with the Australian Medical Association NSW, and is an active advocate for patients within the Australian healthcare system alongside the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association. Dr Dugal is a passionate philanthropist and avid supporter of the cultural arts. An accomplished artist in classical Indian dance, she is also the director of a professional dance company “Monsuun Dance”, and a film production company “Jhumka Films”.

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Director

Dr. Baker graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1999. In 2007, he completed specialist training in Endocrinology before undertaking a PhD in type 2 diabetes and dietary interventions through the University of Melbourne, completing in 2012. He is a Consultant Endocrinologist and General Physician at Austin Health and lectures for the University of Melbourne and Royal Australasian College of Physicians. He has been involved with FSHD Global since 2010 and was part of the working group for the FSHD Clinical Practice Recommendations published in 2016.

Director

Pete has 20 years’ commercial, operations management & advisory experience in global strategic consultancy roles across Europe, the US, Asia & Australia.

He is the founder, Chairman and CEO of Agincourt Advisory, a private market advisory firm specializing in diversified alternative assets & pursing opportunistic interests in Private Debt, Real Estate, Private Equity & Venture asset classes, focusing on a broad range of industries & sectors including Healthcare, Technology, Renewable Energy, Clean / Green Tech, Financial Services & Fintech, Agriculture & Ag Tech, Commercial Realty, Education, Aged Care & Tourism.

Agincourt provides robust portfolio diversification strategies by identifying & responding to special opportunities across divergent asset classes & sectors with low correlation to the volatility of public markets.

Pete is also a director of Agincourt Bio Consulting pty ltd which he founded after working in the global Life Science strategic consultancy arenas in Europe, the US, Asia and Australia.

Agincourt Bio Consulting is a boutique advisory firm, specializing in providing uniquely tailored approaches to partner identification, commercialization strategies and targeted exposure to Investor networks for the Healthcare, Life Science and Medical Device industries.

Agincourt Bio Consulting works with biotech, tier 1 and 2 pharma, medical device and diagnostic clients supporting corporate strategic planning, licensing, strategic business development, alliance management, IP commercialization, capital raising, cross border engagement & joint venture’s taking advantage of the IP appetite from Asian markets.

Prior to founding Agincourt Pete headed up the Healthcare business within Datamonitor (part of the Informa group), a leading market analyst firm providing strategic research, bespoke high level, complex consultancy and commercial, strategic and business operations advisory services.

Pete joined Datamonitor in London supporting clients across Europe & the US. In 2007 returned to Australia to manage the Asia Pacific healthcare operation.

Past roles include Australian Sales Director for Truven Health Analytics, a US based healthcare big data and global health economics outcomes provider, acquired by IBM Watson health in 2016 for $2.6 billion USD.

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SCIENTIFIC ADVISORS

Education: Masters in Chemistry at the University of Mons-Hainaut in Belgium. Masters in Biochemistry PhD in Molecular Biology.

Current Position: Head of Department, Molecular Biology, Universite de Mons.

Education: MD, PhD, MA

Current Position: Professor of Neuromuscular Disorders at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre Department of Neurology, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Education: MBBS University of Melbourne, FRACP Masters in Medicine, University of Sydney.

Current Position: Consultant Neurologist, Director of the Neurology Department, The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

Education: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Cellular and Molecular Biology from University of California, San Diego.

Current Position: Director, Wellstone Program; Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Neurology at UMass Medical School.

Academic Background

Dr. Emerson received his undergraduate education at Princeton University in Biology/Biochemistry, and his graduate training at MIT and the University of California, San Diego in Cell and Molecular Biology. He then pursued postdoctoral research as an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Virginia, where he initiated his career-long studies of skeletal myogenesis. He received his first faculty appointment in the Department of Biology at the University of Virginia and advanced to become Commonwealth Professor of Biology. His subsequent faculty appointments include: Senior Scientist at Fox Chase Cancer Center, the Joseph Leidy Professor and Chair of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Director and Senior Scientist at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute, as well as visiting scientist at the Carnegie Institution Department of Embryology and the Pasteur Institute. Dr. Emerson joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2013 as Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Neurology and as Director of the Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Program. At UMMS, he has continued his investigations of skeletal muscle development, focusing on human muscle biology and muscular dystrophies. His research has been generously supported by NIH, including Career Development and Merit Awards and directorship of an NIH Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center, and by foundations supporting cancer and muscular dystrophy research. Throughout his career, he has had many valued and productive research collaborations, he has lead NIH graduate and postdoctoral training programs in cell and developmental biology, and he has been the proud mentor to a cadre of talented graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Emerson Lab Research Program

Skeletal muscle development, regeneration and disease

Skeletal muscle is the most abundant tissue in the human body, responsible for all voluntary motor activity to enable our amazingly complex behaviors and adaptive functions- every smile, breath, and step. The Emerson Lab utilizes genome, molecular and stem cell technologies to understand how muscles develop in embryos and how injured muscles repair and regenerate in adults, with the goal of understanding molecular pathologies of human genetic muscular dystrophies and the development of therapeutics. Our lab is highly collaborative with academic and industry scientists, clinicians and patient advocates though the UMMS Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center, with the support of NIH and foundations dedicated to the treatment of muscular dystrophies.

Current Research

iPSC modeling of human skeletal myogenesis and muscular dystrophy.

Dr. Emerson’s research historically has utilized molecular, embryological and genetic approaches to investigate transcriptional and signaling regulation of skeletal muscle development in animal models including birds, Drosophia and mouse as well as cell culture myoblast models. Recently the Emerson lab has focused its research on human muscle biology, utilizing iPSC reprogramming and differentiation technologies to investigate the earliest epigenetic and molecular regulatory mechanisms that regulate commitment of pluripotent human cells to form muscle stem cell lineages, processes not readily accessible to investigation in embryos. These iPSC modelling studies have been made possible through collaboration with Genea Biocells, who are developing gene-free methods for step-wise chemical and growth factor induction of skeletal muscle stem cells from human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and in the Emerson Lab, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), based on knowledge of signaling pathways operative during muscle development in the vertebrate embryo. These innovative ESC and iPSC skeletal muscle technologies have uniquely enabled the Emerson lab to investigate genetic and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms controlling the earliest stages of human skeletal muscle development as well as the molecular pathologies of human genetic muscular dystrophies, including facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) and limb girdle muscular dystrophies (LGMD) including LGMD2i and LGMD2g and develop small molecule and RNA therapeutics, and CRISPR gene correction and stem cell therapies to treat patients with these diseases.

Ongoing research projects in the Emerson lab:

• Identification of early developmental master regulatory genes controlling muscle stem cell lineage specification using CRISPR gene expression and editing technologies and small molecule developmental pathway activators and inhibitors, in collaboration with Scot Wolfe at UMMS and Genea Biocells;

• Identification of iPSC muscle stem cell lineages to promote efficient skeletal muscle regeneration through development of muscle xenoengraftment technologies;

• Modeling the role of innate immunity in FSHD muscle pathology, using combined muscle and blood xenografting technologies in immune deficient mice, in collaboration with Michael Brehm at UMMS;

• Investigations of FSHD clinical disease severity through iPSC modeling of the molecular pathologies of iPSC muscle reprogrammed from FSHD patients with mild adult-onset disease and profound infantile-onset disease;

• Development of RNA and small molecule therapeutics for FSHD, in collaboration with Jon Watts and Anastasia Khvorova at UMMS and Genea Biocells.

• Development of CRISPR gene correction therapeutics for LGMD2i and LGMD2g in collaboration with Scot Wolfe at UMMS.

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