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AirTree Speaker Series: Professor Vanessa Hayes

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AirTree HQ

52 Victoria Street

Paddington, NSW 2021

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We are delighted to have geneticist Professor Vanessa Hayes join us for an AirTree Speaker Series event this November.

Professor Hayes will sit down with our very own, Daniel Petre, to talk about using the variation within our DNA to define our earliest human origins and our modern human evolution out of Africa. While it is clear that modern humans emerged from a single-founder population within Africa, the exact origins and timeline of this emergence remains one of the biggest questions of all time.

Genomics is providing us the tools to begin to unravel the mysteries surrounding early human history. With the richest and oldest fossil record of anatomically modern humans outside of East Africa, Southern Africa is a major contender for the birthplace of all mankind.

Once home to an abundance of our ‘ape-man’ human ancestors, today the ‘oldest’ extant contemporary hunter-gatherer human populations still live in Southern Africa.

Professor Hayes has not only collated the largest global resource for the Southern African click-speaking KhoeSan peoples, but it is her and her team who have been using genomic analyses to redefine early history of homo sapiens.

About Professor Vanessa Hayes

Professor Vanessa Hayes is the Petre Chair of Prostate Cancer Research at the University of Sydney and Head and Professor of the Laboratory for Human Comparative and Prostate Cancer Genomics at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

Her research interest is in using the variation in the human genome to define human origins and evolution, and how genome variation triggers, drives and ultimately defines treatment for prostate cancer.

Vanessa is a truly international researcher, which reflects her interest in human diversity. South African born, she completed her PhD in cancer genetics at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She migrated to Australia (Garvan Institute) in 2003 and has spent two turns since in the United States. Firstly, representing Australia as a Fulbright Professional Scholar at Penn State College, and secondly leading a Medical Genomics research team at the J. Craig Venter Institute (noting that Craig Venter was part of the team that sequenced the first genome in 1993). Driven by advances in technology from her early research days, Vanessa established Australia’s first next generation sequencing research laboratory in 2008. This technology advancement allowed for the entire code of the human DNA sequence (genome) to be read. She used this technological to sequence the DNA of the first Africans, namely Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a Kalahari Bushman, as well as the genome of the Tasmanian Devil and its devastating facial cancer.

Vanessa’s team, with the help of Daniel Petre, has established the first and currently only next generation mapping laboratory in Australia. The team is using this new approach to understand the contributions of large genomic rearrangements to the evolution of the human genome and in particular prostate cancer.

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AirTree HQ

52 Victoria Street

Paddington, NSW 2021

Australia

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