Directors & Executive | Australian Cardiovascular Alliance (ACvA)

Professor Gemma A Figtree – President ACvA



Gemma Figtree is a Professor in Medicine at the University of Sydney. She co-leads the Cardiovascular Theme for Sydney Health Partners, a NHMRC Advanced Health Research and Translation Centre and is the Chair of the University of Sydney’s multi-disciplinary Cardiovascular Initiative. Gemma completed her DPhil at Oxford University in 2002 supported by a Rhodes Scholarship making fundamental discoveries regarding estrogen’s actions in the cardiovascular system. She is committed to improving the care for heart attack patients- using her knowledge of molecular and cellular biology to develop methods of identifying those at highest risk of adverse outcome, and discovering novel therapies to prevent and treat events, inspired by her clinical work as an interventional cardiologist. She has dedicated herself throughout her career to unravelling key mechanisms underlying susceptibility and response to heart attack, with studies extending from the bench to clinical trials. Discoveries in her Laboratory have been published in leading journals Circulation, JACC and European Heart Journal, with > 140 publications. GF is a principal investigator on grants >$8 mill. Having recently completed a co-funded NHMRC CDF and Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship, she has been awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Excellence Award for Top Ranked Practitioner Fellow (Australia), commencing in 2018. She is committed to the advancement of her field and serves as a member of the Editorial Board of leading international cardiovascular journals Circulation and Cardiovascular Research, as well as being a founding editorial board member for Redox Biology, and an Associate Editor for Heart, Lung and Circulation. Her research and clinical perspective and leadership are recognised by her membership of the Scientific Board of Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (responsible for International Relations), and her appointment to the Expert Advisory Panel for NHMRC Structural Review of Grants Program (2016-17), and as well as the Clinical Committee of the Heart Foundation.  She is committed to the promotion and advocacy of cardiovascular research, working as President of the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance with a national team to secure $220 Million Federal funding for the Mission for Cardiovascular Health. She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and serves/has served as a non-executive Director on multiple community Boards.



Kerry Doyle – Executive Director

Kerry stepped across from the Heart Foundation where she has been the Chief Executive Officer at the NSW Division, and played a huge role in strategy development. She also has immense experience in working with state and federal government- from both internally and in advocacy, having previously been the Executive Director of NSW Government’s Industry, Innovation & Investment Division. Kerry has interests that span from fundamental discovery and innovation through to public health.

A key early goal for Kerry and the team that she will build around her, will be to cement the key research flagships of the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance and facilitate the drawing up of a map of current research strengths and research priorities, as well as capacity building initiatives relevant to each. In addition to formulating communication of these priorities to the independent Expert Advisory Board of the Mission, the Executive Director will work with the Board to explore opportunities with leading international industry partners, and philanthropy, as well as with the state and territory governments. Working in close collaboration with our founding partner the Heart Foundation will be greatly strengthened by having Kerry in this role.


Jamie Vandenberg – Secretary 

Professor Jamie Vandenberg completed his Medical training at the University of Sydney, his PhD in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge and undertook post-doctoral training at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In 2002 he moved to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney where he is head of the Mark Cowley Lidwill Research Program in Cardiac Electrophysiology and co-Deputy Director.

Jamie Vandenberg is a cardiac electrophysiologist whose work focuses on the molecular basis of inherited and drug-induced arrhythmia syndromes. He has made landmark discoveries in the molecular and structural basis of ion channel gating and the mechanisms underlying drug binding to the human ether-a-go-go related gene (hERG) K+ channel. He has also made significant contributions to understanding the molecular basis of inherited arrhythmia syndromes and establishing causally cohesive links from ion channel genotypes to whole organ phenotypes. He has been elected to Fellowships of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, the International Society of Heart Research and the Heart Rhythm Society.

Professor Vandenberg is passionate about mentoring and the provision of research training for the next generation of biomedical researchers. He has also served as a consultant to biotech companies advising on the pro-arrhythmic risk of drugs in the preclinical setting and currently serves on the international panel advising the Food and Drug Administration on the development of assays for assessing the pro-arrhythmic risk of drugs

Professor Vandenberg is a current member of the Council of the Australasian Division of the International Society for Heart Research (ISHR) and has previously served on the council of the Australian Physiological Society, the Australian Society for Biophysics (including 8 years on the executive) and Science Technology Australia (the peak body for Australian Science and Technology). He serves on the Editorial Board of Cardiovascular Research and formerly sat on the editorial board of the Journal of Physiology.


Stephen Nicholls – founding Treasurer


Professor Stephen Nicholls is the Director of Monash Heart and Professor of Cardiology at Monash University. He will be the Director of the Victorian Heart Hospital. He completed his cardiology training at John Hunter Hospital and PhD at the University of Adelaide, prior to holding a postdoctoral fellowship and faculty appointment at the Cleveland Clinic. He returned to Australia to serve as the inaugural Deputy Director and Heart Health Theme Leader at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. His research interests focus on the role of metabolic risk factors and imaging in atherosclerosis, with work spanning from early discovery to leadership of large clinical trials. He is Chair of the (i) Australian Atherosclerosis Society Clinical Council, (ii) Scientific Committee of the Australia and New Zealand Alliance for Cardiovascular Trials, (iii) Asia Pacific Cardiometabolic Consortium and (iv) Future Leader Fellowship committee of the National Heart Foundation, Secretary of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and founding board member of the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance.

Ben Freedman

Professor Ben Freedman, OAM is Deputy Director Cardiovascular Strategy at Sydney’s Heart Research Institute and Charles Perkins Centre. He is Professor of Cardiology at the University of Sydney and former head of Department of Cardiology Concord Hospital. He is also Visiting Professor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health & Preventive Medicine at Monash University, and Honorary Professorial Fellow of the University of Melbourne. He was Deputy Dean of Sydney Medical School for 9 years from 2003-12, and received the Faculty’s inaugural Distinguished Service Award in 2012. He is Group leader of the Heart Rhythm and Stroke Group of the Heart Research Institute. His research interests are broad but now focus on stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation: his group’s work on screening was nominated as a finalist in the Australian Innovation award in 2013. With five others, he formed the AF-SCREEN International Collaboration which now has 150 members from 33 countries, including many of the foremost names in AF research, and recently produced an important white paper on screening for AF published in Circulation. He has authored over 200 publications. In 2002 he was scientific chairman of the successful World Congress of Cardiology. He holds Fellowships of RACP, CSANZ, ACC, AHA and ESC. For many years he has been on the editorial board and regular interviewer for ACCEL, the continuing education vehicle of the American College of Cardiology. In 2011 he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to medicine as a clinician, educator and researcher.

Andrew Murphy

Associate Professor Andrew Murphy is NHMRC Career Development Fellow and National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow, recipient of a CSL Centenary Award. He is head of the Haematopoiesis and Leukocyte Biology laboratory and head of the Centre for Immunometabolism at the Baker Heart Research Institute. He also holds an adjunct appointment at Monash University in the Department of Immunology. Andrew completed is PhD in 2008 in Prof Jaye Chin-Dusting’s laboratory at the Baker and postdoc’d in Prof. Alan Tall’s group at Columbia University where he was an American Heart Association Fellow. In 2013 he returned to Australia to begin his own group. His work largely focuses on how inflammatory diseases associated with cardiovascular disease, including diabetes, obesity and rheumatoid arthritis cause the overproduction of innate immune cells (monocytes, neutrophils and platelets) and how this contributes to atherogenesis or impaired lesion regression. His group also examines post-ischemic inflammation and how this can be controlled for better functional outcomes post-myocardial infarction and stroke. Another strong focus of his work is understand the metabolism of stem cells and innate immune cells in the context of metabolic diseases, haematopoietic stressors and neural signals. Furthermore, his laboratory studies fundamental biological process regulating haematopoiesis. He has published a number of manuscripts in leading journals including Nature Medicine, Cell Stem Cell, Cell Metabolism and JCI. He currently holds 2 NHMRC project grants and an ASTAR-NHMRC obesity grant and has previously been supposed by Diabetes Australia.

Mark Nelson

Mark Nelson is Professor and Chair, Discipline of General Practice, University of Tasmania and Senior Professorial Fellow, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, and an Adjunct Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University. His research interests are around large-scale clinical trials in CVD prevention in primary care. He has 200 peer reviewed scientific publications, has been awarded more than $70 million in competitive grants and is a principal investigator on the NIH sponsored ASPREE study (N = 19,114) investigating if aspirin extends healthy active life. He also has been an author on multiple guidelines for CVD prevention and treatment and remains in clinical general practice in Hobart.

Christopher Reid

Christopher Reid is a cardiovascular epidemiologist with appointments as Research Professor in both the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University and the Schoolof Public Health at Curtin University. He was appointed as a John Curtin Distinguished Professor in 2018 and is Director of the Monash and Curtin Centre’s of Cardiovascular Research and Education (CCRE) and the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Cardiovascular Outcomes Improvement (2016-2020).  He holds a National Health and Medical Research Council Principal Research Fellowship (2018-2022) in addition to being the Chief Investigator on an NHMRC Program Grant (2016-2020) focusing on cardiovascular disease prevention.  He has been awarded over $113M as a Chief Investigator and has received continuous NHMRC funding since 2001.  His major research interests include clinical outcome registries, randomized controlled trials, and epidemiological cohort studies.  He has over 350 peer-reviewed publications, many of which are in leading journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, JACC and the BMJ.  He has been Study Director for the 2nd Australian National Blood Pressure (ANBP2) Study and currently a Chief Investigator for the Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) Study, the Statins in Reducing Events in the elderly Trial and the Australian arms of the HOPE-3, REACH and CLARIFY Registries. He is a Principal Investigator for the Victorian Cardiac Procedures Registry Project, the Melbourne Interventional Group (MIG) registry, and the ANZSCTS National Cardiac Surgical Registry.  He participates as a WHO consultant for prevention of cardiovascular disease in Mongolia, Vietnam and the West Pacific region.

Karlheinz Peter

Professor Karlheinz Peter is a senior interventional cardiologist at the Alfred Hospital and a basic scientist and Deputy Director (Basic and Translational Research) at Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. He is Professor of Medicine and Immunology at Monash University and Pharmaceutical Science at RMIT and he holds a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) principal research fellowship.

Professor Peter has been working for many years and continues to work as an interventional cardiologist, including previously as the head of the cardiac catheter laboratory at the University of Freiburg, Germany. He did his postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore and at Scripps Research Foundation, La Jolla, USA. He did most of his clinical training at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. His research is focused on the cellular mechanisms of coronary artery disease and its consequence, myocardial infarction, encompassing the role of platelets, coagulation and inflammation in atherosclerosis, as well as the mechanisms leading to the rupture of atherosclerotic plaques. He has developed novel biomarker (proteomic and microRNA) approaches and molecular imaging strategies using MRI, ultrasound, CT and PET towards the localisation of thrombi, inflammatory reactions and vulnerable, rupture-prone plaques and the identification of patients at risk of myocardial infarction.

David Kaye

Professor David Kaye is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and a Heart Failure/Transplant physician at the Alfred Hospital Melbourne. Prof Kaye’s research has been directed towards the characterisation of the pathophysiology of heart failure, with a particular emphasis on the identification of novel mechanisms that can be targeted for therapeutic intervention. Prof Kaye has been highly successful in the generation of intellectual property leading to commercial and clinical outcomes.

He is an Adjunct Professor at Monash University. He leads the Heart Failure Research laboratory, which comprises 4 senior post-docs, 2 RAs, 2 PhD students and 2 BSc(Hons) students. Prof Kaye is Chair of the Medical Advisory Boards for Opsrey Medical and Cardiora Pty Ltd, both companies which he founded based upon intellectual property he generated.

Past Directors

We would like to acknowledge and thank our Past Directors for their dedication and efforts to support our mission:

2015 – 2017 – Professor Jaye Chin-Dusting, Founding President
2015 – 2017 – Professor Kerry-Ann Rye, Founding Director
2015 – 2017 – Professor Thomas Marwick, Founding Director
2015 – 2019 – Professor Livia Hool, Founding Secretary
2015 – 2019 – Professor Robert M. Graham, Director
2015 – 2019 – Professor Jonathan Golledge, Director