About SAIGENCI

Bringing the best minds in cancer research under one roof.

The South Australian immunoGENomics Cancer Institute (SAiGENCI) will be the state’s world-class cancer research institute, jointly resourced by the Federal Department of Health, CALHN and the University of Adelaide. This Institute was made possible by $80 million in Commonwealth funding secured with the support of South Australian Senator Stirling Griff

SAiGENCI will allow for coordinated collaboration in the fight to control cancer and explore a cure, by attracting and retaining brilliant biomedical and clinical researchers. The Institute will also collaborate externally, with likeminded centres of excellence across the globe. Delivering world-class and life-changing treatments and outcomes for cancer patients.

SAiGENCI’s objectives include:

  • Forging strong research collaborations
  • Developing and testing new technologies and discoveries
  • Improving treatment and care options for people living with cancer
  • Training South Australian clinicians
  • Commercialising new discoveries

SAiGENCI’s plans

The plans for the South Australian immunoGENomics Cancer Institute are ambitious. The aim is to provide a focal point for cancer research in the South Australian Biomedical Precinct and through this, enable South Australian participation in the growing Australian network of cancer institutes, and national and international clinical trials partnerships.

We aim to create an environment that will attract talent to South Australia, but also see this as becoming the South Australian node of the national cancer research effort.

Collaboration and institutional partnership will be fundamental to our success and will underpin the impact we aim to have on the generation of new knowledge, and its application to the benefit of patients.

Specifically, this will involve:

  1. Creating an intellectual environment in SAiGENCI that is a magnet for the attraction and retention of clinical academic and cancer research talent, establishing an aggressive national and international recruitment program that builds research, translation and clinical capability in cancer immunotherapy and cell therapy in South Australia.
  2. Establishing platforms and technologies to expand genomic and related (eg epigenomic, transcriptomic, metabolomic) profiling of tumours which will facilitate research, clinical trials, and ultimately, enable precision oncology.
  3. Integrating South Australian cancer research, clinical trials, care and education with national networks and programs.
  4. Partnering with the Central Adelaide Local Health Network to facilitate the implementation of national cancer care pathways and policies and enhancing clinical trials for South Australian patients.
  5. Contributing to the development of contemporary and cutting-edge training programs for clinician scientists, research scientists and the health and medical research workforce.
  6. Collaborating with partners in the Adelaide Biomedical Precinct to create a world-class clinical trials infrastructure that will attract national and international industry-sponsored and investigator-led clinical trials.
  7. Working with the wider University and Central Adelaide Local Health Network to build relationships within the philanthropic sector that will help to diversify and strengthen the institute’s revenues into the long-term future.

Our team

Professor Chris Sweeney

Professor Christopher Sweeney | Director Designate

Professor Sweeney is already actively engaged in the strategic direction of SAiGENCI, including the selection and appointment of Group Leaders.  He will visit Adelaide regularly from the start of 2022 as Director Designate and relocate full time towards the end of 2022, supported during this transition period by the existing interim team.

Professor Christopher Sweeney is a Medical Oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Professor Sweeney received his medical degree from the University of Adelaide in 1992 and completed an internship at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. He did his residency in internal medicine at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center, La Crosse, Wisconsin and a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Indiana University Medical Center, where he was later appointed Associate Director for Clinical Research for the Simon Cancer Center. He joined the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in 2009.

His primary research interest is drug discovery and development. His academic focus is the management of genitourinary malignancies, with a focus on prostate and testicular cancer.

Professor Jose Polo

Professor Jose Polo | Director of the Adelaide Centre for Epigenetics

Professor Jose Polo has been appointed as the inaugural director of a new Adelaide Centre for Epigenetics within the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Adelaide and is also the first group leader appointed at SAiGENCI. Professor Polo will arrive in Adelaide in October.

The relationship between epigenetics and cancer is well established and Professor Polo will be pivotal in establishing epigenetics capacity within SAiGENCI. Professor’s Polo’s work in epigenetics spans several fields of research, such as pluripotency, nuclear reprogramming and cancer, where he has investigated the role of the epigenome in the development of lymphoma and the potential of developing an anti-lymphoma therapy and the mechanism by which these work, as well as bringing together reprogramming techniques to control cell identity into novel approaches to research into the treatment of prostate cancer. In the last 14 years there has been a revolution in this field, leading to an explosion in the use of reprogramming in potential cellular therapies. This process can inform and help in cancer biology research. Professor Polo’s work has been published in prestigious journals including Nature Medicine, Nature Immunology, Cancer Cell, and Nature Neuroscience.

Associate Professor Luciano Martelotto

Associate Professor Luciano Martelotto | Single Cell and Spatial Technologies Lab

Associate Professor Luciano Martelotto is establishing the Single Cell and Spatial Technologies Lab within SAiGENCI and the new Adelaide Centre for Epigenetics. Associate Professor Martelotto will arrive in Adelaide towards the end of 2021.

Previously, Associate Professor Martelotto was the Scientific Director of the Single Cell Core at Harvard University and has a robust interdisciplinary scientific background, specialising in molecular biology and biochemistry with a strong background in technology and engineering. Furthermore, his work in cancer fingerprinting and heterogeneity using single cell technologies has been paramount to the field.

He has been appointed to establish a Single Cell and Spatial-omics enabling platform for technologies capable of providing SAiGENCI’s basic and clinical researchers the means to achieve “discoveries that have a meaningful clinical impact,” namely those that can decipher the complex interplay that occurs at the most primitive―and most informative―level of cancer.