Symposium speakers

Dr. Amber Alhadeff

Principal Investigator, Monell Chemical Senses Center & Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, United States

Amber L. Alhadeff received her Ph.D. from and performed postdoctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania, where she investigated the neural control of food intake and energy balance. As a postdoc, Amber received an NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award and the L’Oreal USA For Women in Science Fellowship.

Amber opened her lab in 2020 at the Monell Chemical Senses Center and Department of Neuroscience at Penn where she is interested in gut-brain signaling pathways underlying motivated behavior, and is passionate about mentorship and facilitating the advancement of diverse and underrepresented scientists.

Amber is a current recipient of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Klingenstein-Simons Foundation Award in Neuroscience, the American Heart Association Career Development Award and the Eppendorf & Science Prize in Neurobiology.

Prof. Kathryn Backholer

Associate Professor and Associate Director, Global Obesity Centre, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia

Kathryn Backholer is an Associate Professor and Associate Director of the Global Obesity Centre at Deakin University, a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for the Prevention of Obesity.

She leads a programme of research focused on the social, commercial and cultural determinants of population health and is particularly interested in interdisciplinary solutions to complex public health problems. She regularly consults to UN agencies and international governments on the regulatory parameters for regulating harmful food marketing.

Prof. Rachel Batterham

Professor of Obesity, Diabetes and Endocrinology, University College London, United Kingdom

Rachel Batterham is a Professor of Obesity, Diabetes and Endocrinology at University College London (UCL). She leads the University College London Hospital (UCLH) Bariatric Centre for Weight Management & Metabolic Surgery and the UCL Centre for Obesity Research within the Department of Medicine. She is the Clinical Director for the Division of Medicine at UCL and the Director for the UCLH/UCL NIHR Biomedical Research Centre Obesity Research Theme. She is the Royal College of Physicians’ Special Advisor on Obesity.

She has received several national and international awards for her obesity research including the Royal Society of Medicine’s Steven’s Lecture (2018), the Andre Mayer award from the World Obesity Federation (2016), and the Diabetes UK Rank Fund Nutrition Prize (2015).

Professor Batterham has made significant clinical contributions to defining the management of patients living with obesity through her membership of the NICE Obesity Guideline Development Group. She is Scientific Chair for the International Federation for Surgery for Obesity and Metabolic Diseases (IFSO) European Chapter (since 2015), a Trustee for the Association for the Study of Obesity (since 2016) and Council Member for British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society (since 2016). She is passionate about reducing the stigma that people with obesity experience and ensuring that the patient voice is heard and has established a charity for people affected by obesity, Obesity Empowerment Network UK.

Prof. Emma Boyland

Professor of Food Marketing and Child Health, Department of Psychology, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

Emma Boyland is a Professor of Food Marketing and Child Health based in the Department of Psychology at the University of Liverpool, where she leads the Appetite and Obesity Research group. Her work principally focuses on the food environment, characterising the foods and beverages available, how they are marketed, how this impacts on eating behaviours (particularly in children), and how this evidence can be used to inform policy progress in the UK and internationally.

Emma has authored over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, 11 book chapters, seven WHO Europe reports and three UNICEF reports on food marketing. She has recently completed two WHO commissioned reviews on the impact of food marketing on eating behaviour and health and the effectiveness of food marketing policies to inform updated WHO global guidelines.

She sits on the WHO Global Steering Committee for digital food marketing and is an expert advisor to both WHO Europe and UNICEF, leading food marketing monitoring studies across Europe, Latin America, and the East Asia-Pacific region. She is a member of the leadership group for the International Network for Food and Obesity/non-communicable diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS) food promotion module.

Dr. Jean-Philippe Chaput

Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute; Associate Professor, University of Ottawa, Canada

Dr. Jean-Philippe Chaput is a Senior Scientist with the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the CHEO Research Institute and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on health promotion and the prevention of chronic diseases. He is particularly interested in sleep health and 24-hour movement behaviours.

Dr. Chaput has published more than 350 peer-reviewed scientific articles and received many awards for his research. He led the sleep component of the 24-hour movement guidelines in Canada and chaired the Youth Working Group for the 2020 WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

Prof. Dan Cuthbertson

Professor of Medicine, University of Liverpool,
United Kingdom

Dan Cuthbertson (BSc PhD FRCP) was appointed as a Professor of Medicine at the University of Liverpool in December 2018. He has worked at the University of Liverpool and Liverpool University NHS Foundation Trust as a Clinical Academic/Consultant Physician since 2007 with a major interest in obesity-related complications including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), polycystic ovary syndrome and obstructive sleep apnoea.

His particular focus has been studying  the impact of multi-organ ectopic fat, particularly visceral fat, liver and pancreatic fat on metabolic processes including multi-organ (hepatic and peripheral) insulin resistance, beta cell function and the interrelationship with cardiovascular disease. He utilises multi-parametric MRI imaging to perform tissue characterisation assessing fat and fibrosis of these organs, coupled with stable isotope methodology to dynamically track fat and carbohydrate metabolism. These methodologies have been implemented to evaluate the impact of lifestyle interventions (structured exercise, imposed sedentary time, low calorie diet) and pharmacological interventions.

His talk will provide an overview of the implications of liver fat and liver fibrosis to the general population and frame NAFLD as a systemic, multi-organ disease with prominent extra-hepatic complications. He will briefly describe various dietary and pharmacological treatment options available.

Assoc. Prof. Guillaume de Lartigue

Associate Member, Monell Chemical Senses Center; Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA

Guillaume de Lartigue is a Principle Investigator at the Monell Chemical Senses Center leading a research programme studying the neurobiology of feeding behaviour. His lab has been at the forefront of developing pharmacological, molecular and genetic tools to visualise, map, record, and manipulate vagal sensory neurons. His team has identified previously unsuspected roles of gut-brain interoception in various aspects of higher-order feeding behaviour. His aim is to develop interoceptive therapeutics for treating obesity.

Dr. de Lartigue has received many awards and honours for his work, including the Burgen Prize from the Academia Europaea, Pathways to Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health, and the Acta Physiologica award from the Scandinavian Physiological Society. He serves on the advisory board of Bariatek, and is associate editor for Peptides. He was elected to the Board of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), and is currently co-Chair of the SSIB Diversity Committee.

Before moving to Philadelphia in 2022, Dr. de Lartigue held independent research positions at the University of Florida, and Yale University/JB Pierce laboratory.

Assoc. Prof. Ana Domingos

Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Dept. Physiology, Anatomy, Genetics at University of Oxford; Wellcome IRScholar Member of the Advisory Board of Cell Metabolism, United Kingdom

Ana Domingos is an Associate Professor at the University of Oxford. After studying undergraduate Mathematics in Lisbon and Paris, she went to The Rockefeller University in New York City for her doctoral neurobiology studies with Leslie Vosshall and postdoc with Jeffrey Friedman, investigating how the hormone leptin affects neurocircuitry underlying food choices in mouse models of obesity. 

Her current research interests in neuroimmunometabolism started in her first lab at the Gulbenkian Institute four years before Oxford. Her laboratory discovered the sympathetic neuro-adipose junction, a functional synapse-like connection between white adipocytes and the sympathetic nervous system (Cell, 2015). They demonstrated that adipose sympathetic neurons are necessary and sufficient for fat mass reduction via norepinephrine (NE) signalling. They are the peripheral efferent arm in the neuroendocrine loop of leptin action in the brain (Cell, 2015 and Nature Communications, 2017). They then discovered Sympathetic neuron-Associated Macrophages (SAMs) that contribute to obesity by importing and metabolizing NE (Nature Medicine, 2017). These findings inspired the development of a new class of anti-obesity compounds named sympathofacilitators, which do not enter the brain nor have the typical cardiovascular or behavioural side effects of centrally acting sympathomimetic drugs (Cell Metabolism, 2020). 

Her lab wants to map neuroimmune mechanisms regulating autonomic function, and understand their implications in obesity. Ana Domingos is a member of the advisory board of Cell Metabolism, a member of the board of reviewing editors of eLife, the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Physiology (AJP) – Endocrinology and Metabolism, published by the American Physiological Society. She has received awards from HHMI, Wellcome, ERC, HFSP, and EMBO.

Domingos Group website: https://www.dpag.ox.ac.uk/research/domingos

Prof. Johan Gunnar Eriksson

Professor, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Singapore

Professor Johan G. Eriksson is full professor at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, programme lead for the Human Potential Programme at the SOM, and executive director at Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences SICS, A*STAR.

Before moving to Singapore professor Eriksson was full professor at the faculty of medicine, University of Helsinki, and chief physician at Helsinki University Central Hospital in Finland. He holds clinical interests in diabetes, obesity and related metabolic diseases. He received his medical degree and specialist qualifications (internal medicine and general practice) from the University of Helsinki.

His research focuses on the early programming of health and disease, as well as on the prevention of gestational diabetes (GDM), type 2 diabetes and related metabolic outcomes by lifestyle interventions. In Finland he is in charge of the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study, a unique birth cohort study with a follow-up of over 20,000 individuals from birth until the age of over 80 years. Furthermore, he has been involved in the gestational diabetes prevention study RADIEL, in which a lifestyle intervention was shown to successfully reduce GDM and the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study (DPS) – the first randomised study to show that lifestyle intervention is effective in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

He has co-authored several books and published over 800 original research articles.

Prof. Mark Febbraio

Head of Cellular and Molecular Metabolism Laboratory, Drug Discovery Program, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University Australia

Professor Mark Febbraio is a National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Investigator and the Head of the Cellular and Molecular Metabolism Laboratory within the Drug Discovery Program at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University Australia.

He is also the Founder of the recently incorporated company Celesta Therapeutics. His research is focussed on understanding mechanisms associated with exercise, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer and his aim is to develop novel drugs to treat lifestyle related diseases.

He has authored over 280 peer reviewed papers in leading journals such as Nature, Cell, Nature Immunology, Cell Metabolism, and has over 40,000 career citations. Throughout his career, he has  many prestigious awards including the A K McIntyre Prize for significant contributions to Australian Physiological Science (1999), the Kellion Award for the Australian Diabetes Society (2017), The Eureka Scientific Prize (2020), The GSK Award for Research Excellence (2020) and The Endocrinology Society UK International Medallist (2021).

Prof. Sharon Friel

ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor of Health Equity and Director, Menzies Centre for Health Governance, School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Sharon Friel is an ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor of Health Equity and Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Governance at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), Australian National University.

Her research focuses on the political economy of health; governance and the planetary, social and commercial determinants of health inequities. Her 2019 book “Climate Change and the People’s Health” highlights the importance of addressing the global consumptogenic system.

Prof. Bee Koon Poh

Professor of Nutrition, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan, Malaysia

Poh Bee Koon is Professor of Nutrition at Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. She was the former Chair of the Centre for Community Health Studies (ReaCH) and Leader of the Physical Activity and Energy Metabolism Research Group. She has more than 20 years of research experience that involves multi-disciplinary and multi-country projects.

Her main research area is childhood and adolescent nutrition focussing on energy metabolism, physical activity and body composition, while her projects covers surveys, observation and intervention studies. Prof Poh has led many international grants, including those funded by United Kingdom Medical Research Council, United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and International Development Research Centre (IDRC Canada). She is Principal Investigator of South East Asian Nutrition Surveys (SEANUTS), a nationally-representative survey on nutritional status, physical activity and fitness of children; and ToyBox Study Malaysia, intervention aimed at reducing obesity rates through improving preschoolers’ healthy eating and physical activity.

Prof Poh has participated in consultation work for Ministry of Health Malaysia and was involved in Academy of Sciences Malaysia’s Obesity Task Force to study “Prioritizing Food Policy Options to Reduce Obesity in Malaysia”. She has won numerous awards, including International Nutrition Foundation–Ellison Medical Foundation Short-term Fellowship and IAEA Nobel Peace Prize Fund Schools in Nutrition fellowship. Prof Poh is Editor-in-Chief of the Malaysian Journal of Nutrition.

Assoc. Prof. Camilla Scheele

Associate Professor, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark 

Camilla Scheele is an Associate Professor at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Prof. Scheele received her PhD at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

Her research focus concerns human brown fat, its potential to counteract obesity and type 2 diabetes and its role in human metabolism. Her research team characterized human supraclavicular brown fat and demonstrated, for the first time, that brown fat precursor cells can be isolated from adult humans and differentiated in vitro while maintaining features of brown fat. They further concluded that human brown fat is a heterogeneous tissue and are now establishing single cell methods to further understand the differentiation, function and subtypes of human brown fat cells. Another major research interest of her group is to identify adipokines specifically secreted from brown fat, with the hypothesis that there are yet unknown brown adipokines, i.e. batokines, with an important role in regulating human metabolism and brown fat differentiation. In 2020, Prof. Scheele was awarded an ERC consolidator grant to study peptide-mediated crosstalk between BAT and brain.

Dr. Samantha Scholtz

Consultant Psychiatrist, Bariatric Surgery, St. Mary’s Hospital; Research and Development Director, London, United Kingdom

I am a consultant psychiatrist specialising in the management of obesity and related disorders as well as the preparation of patients for metabolic surgery at West London NHS Trust/Imperial Weight Centre, St Mary’s Hospital. I am also Research and Development director for West London NHS Trust.

I am an executive member of the Faculty of Eating disorders, and sit on the Royal College of Physicians advisory group for weight and health. I advocate against stigmatisation of people living with obesity and serious mental illness through promoting the improved dissemination of scientific knowledge about the neuroendocrine, physiological and psychological factors which influence appetite and weight control.

I completed my PhD at Imperial College London, at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, funded by the Welcome Trust Charity. My research examined appetite and food reward changes in patients who have undergone bariatric surgery using functional magnetic resonance imaging. I have also published on psychological factors influencing bariatric surgery and the clinical management of bariatric patients.

Prof. Eran Segal

Professor, Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

Eran Segal is a Professor at the Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, heading a lab with a multi-disciplinary team of computational biologists and experimental scientists in the area of Computational and Systems biology. His group has extensive experience in machine learning, computational biology, and analysis of heterogeneous high-throughput genomic data. His research focuses on Microbiome, Nutrition, Genetics, and their effect on health and disease. His aim is to develop personalized medicine based on big data from human cohorts.

Prof. Segal published over 180 publications, and received several awards and honors for his work, including the Overton prize, awarded annually by the International Society for Bioinformatics (ICSB) to one scientist for outstanding accomplishments in computational biology, and the Michael Bruno award. He was also elected as an EMBO member and as a member of the young Israeli academy of science. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Prof. Segal developed models for analyzing the dynamics of the pandemic and served as an advisor to the government of Israel.

Before joining the Weizmann Institute, Prof. Segal held an independent research position at Rockefeller University, New York.

Education: Prof. Segal was awarded a B.Sc. in Computer Science summa cum laude in 1998, from Tel-Aviv University, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Genetics in 2004, from Stanford University.

Lab website: http://genie.weizmann.ac.il

Prof. Kate Steinbeck

Professor and inaugural Chair in Adolescent Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia

Professor Kate Steinbeck MBBS, PhD, FRACP is the inaugural Chair in Adolescent Medicine at the University of Sydney and is an endocrinologist and adolescent physician. As a clinical academic she is a researcher and teacher as well as a consultant at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia where her clinical school is based.

Her research programme in adolescent and young adult health includes chronic physical illness, with a particular emphasis on developing self management skills and the transition from paediatric to adult care; puberty and its hormones, obesity, polycystic ovaries, and implementation science based development and delivery of health care services for adolescents and young adults.

She is lead investigator for an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence in Adolescent Health: Improving adolescent health services in the digital age, which includes the development of the Wellbeing Health and Youth Research Commission – an engaged team of 14-25 year olds who are co-researchers with the Centre.

She is a strong advocate for the importance of targeted adolescent and young adult health services, which are often compromised by the binary nature of many health care systems – paediatric and adult – and its long term impact on health and wellbeing.

Dr. Priya Sumithran

Group Leader, Obesity Research Group University of Melbourne, Department of Medicine (St Vincent’s) and Head of Obesity Medicine at Austin Health, Australia

Dr. Priya Sumithran is an endocrinologist and clinician researcher. She is Group Leader of the Obesity Research Group at the University of Melbourne, Department of Medicine (St Vincent’s) and Head of Obesity Medicine at Austin Health. Her research and clinical interests are in the neuroendocrine regulation of appetite and eating behaviours, the intersection between obesity and mental health, and improving access to effective treatment of obesity.

Dr. Sumithran is on the council of the Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society, and a member of the Endocrine Society of Australia, Australian Diabetes Society, and The Obesity Society.

Dr. Verónica Vázquez-Velázquez

Clinical Psychologist, Obesity and Eating Disorders Clinic of the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition Salvador Zubirán (INCMNSZ), Mexico City, Mexico

Dr. Vázquez Velázquez has participated in clinical research projects and published several scientific papers and book chapters. Dr. Vázquez Velázquez has dedicated to the clinical care of patients with obesity and eating disorders, the creation of psychoeducational interventions based on cognitive behavioral therapy for obesity and the theoretical-practical training on the treatment of obesity for healthcare professionals.

Some of her qualifications and experience includes:
PhD in Psychology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM); Clinical Psychologist at the Obesity and Eating Disorders Clinic of the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition Salvador Zubirán (INCMNSZ), in Mexico City since 2000; President of Obesidades, a non-profit organisation with the mission of changing the narrative of obesity and its treatment, improving education, access to treatment and advocacy to recognise obesity as a multifactorial disease and eliminate stigma in Mexico; Professor of Postgraduate Course of High Specialty in Obesity (UNAM and the Ministry of Health), Master of Integrated Care for Overweight and Obesity (Universidad La Salle) and Medicine School (UNAM); Author of the “Obesities Manual: An opportunity to improve the health of your patient”; Member of the Steering Committee of the study “Awareness, Care & Treatment In Obesity Management – An International Observation (ACTION IO)”; Member of the Researchers National System in Mexico.

Prof. Matthew Watt

Head, Department of Anatomy & Physiology, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Australia

Matthew Watt obtained a PhD from Deakin University in 2002, completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Guelph (Canada), RMIT University and St. Vincent’s Institute, then established a research team in the Department of Physiology at Monash University where he was supported by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) fellowships for over a decade. Matt moved to the University of Melbourne in 2018 where he is currently Professor and Head of the Department of Anatomy and Physiology.

His research programme seeks to identify how defects of lipid metabolism and inter-tissue communication contribute to the development of obesity-related disorders, and to use this information to discover novel targets that can be transitioned to clinical therapeutics.

Matt has enduring links with the Australian Physiological Society and has served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Physiology and the American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolism for many years.