Executive Committee & Sydney Catalyst Staff

exec and staff

The day to day operations of Sydney Catalyst are overseen by an Executive Committee, which meets every 2-4 weeks at the Sydney Catalyst central office based at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre.

The Executive includes Professors John Simes, Michael Boyer and Phyllis Butow, the Sydney Catalyst Research Manager Ms Danielle Miller and the T1/T2 and T2/T3 Research Fellows Sonia Yip (T1/T2) and Nicole Rankin (T2/T3). The T1/T2 and T2/T3 Working Group Chairs are also involved in regular Executive meetings to ensure the smooth running of the program. 

Sydney Catalyst staff

Danielle Miller, BSc (Hons) MPH 

200DanielleMillerSmilingInvolvement in Sydney Catalyst: Danielle is the Sydney Catalyst Research Manager. This means she is responsible for the day to day management and operations of the centre, providing significant input and support to the various committees and working groups, while actively engaging with the members of Sydney Catalyst. It is her job to help ensure that the goals and objectives of the consortium are clearly defined, current and relevant, and that the various projects and activities needed to achieve better outcomes for cancer patients are well planned and successfully executed.

Background: Danielle's undergraduate degree was in molecular biology, but she left the lab. not long after to pursue a career in project and program management of cancer research. Her early experience in this field was in public health and epidemiology, but for the last eight years, until starting with Sydney Catalyst in October 2011, Danielle was an Oncology Program Manager at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre (CTC). At the CTC Danielle contributed to the development, conduct and reporting of more than 20 national and international academic clinical trials.

Research interests: Danielle's significant experience in public health and clinical trials research, specifically in cancer, has led to a broad and deep understanding of the unique research methodologies and practices used in the field. She is a good problem solver and eternal pragmatist!


Dr Sonia Yip, BSc (Hons) PhD 

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Involvement in Sydney Catalyst: Sonia is the Senior Translational Research Fellow for T1/T2 research at Sydney Catalyst. She sits on both the T1/T2 Working Party and the Sydney Catalyst Scientific Advisory Committee. She also spearheads Sydney Catalyst's program gathering information on available biobanks and biospecimens across the Sydney Catalyst consortium.

Background: Sonia is a molecular biologist and obtained her PhD in signal transduction pathways in breast cancer and CML from the Garvan Institute. She has wide experience in oncology research: working in preclinical, clinical trials (Phase I-III) and translational research in various settings (public health, industry and academia) in the UK and Australia. She has international experience in oncology clinical research within the NHS in London and was later the Research Manager of the newly formed SE London Cancer Research Network in the UK. On returning to Australia, Sonia worked at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre in Oncology. More recently she established and managed a Preclinical & Translational Research Group in oncology at a multinational pharmaceutical company. Sonia is also the Oncology Translational Research Fellow and Manager at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, working with national cancer co-operative trials groups to develop biomarker studies and to incorporate translational studies into new trials in solid tumours.


Dr Nicole Rankin, BA (Hons) MSc PhD 

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Involvement in Sydney Catalyst: Nicole is the translational research fellow for T2/T3 research at Sydney Catalyst.  In collaboration with the Evidence into Practice (T2/T3) Working Group and Sydney Catalyst members, Nicole is directly involved in the strategic development of the T2/T3 program and the design of research projects. She is a lead investigator for the T2-3 Flagship in Lung Cancer. Nicole is also on the Sydney Catalyst Scientific Advisory Committee.

Background: Nicole has more than 15 years experience working in cancer control, primarily in psychosocial and behavioural aspects of patient care.  She has undergraduate qualifications in Psychology and Sociology and completed her PhD in 2000 in the discipline of Behavioural Science in Relation to Medicine at the University of Newcastle. She was manager of the Psychosocial Program at the National Breast Cancer Centre (2000-2003), manager of the Patient Support Program at the Cancer Institute NSW (2004-2006) and the Executive Director of PoCoG (the Psycho-oncology Cooperative Research Group) from 2006-2009. She has also held research positions at the University of Wollongong (2009-2010) and Relationships Australia (2011).

Research interests: Nicole's research interests are in the implementation of evidence into cancer practice and policy. She has significantly contributed to the development and implementation of psychosocial clinical practice guidelines and has led implementation and evaluation programs in psychosocial oncology, specialist breast cancer nursing and models of peer support. Nicole's current research interests are in lung cancer, head and neck cancer and psychosocial clinical pathways.  

Gemma Collett, BMedSc


Involvement in Sydney Catalyst: Gemma is the Sydney Catalyst Evidence into Practice Project Officer working on the Lung Cancer Demonstration Project. Gemma works closely with the T2/T3 Working Group at Sydney Catalyst which is focussed on increasing the use of evidence-based care in practice; building more effective models for providing effective cancer care and closing the gap between the evidence and practice.

Background: Gemma has an extensive background in clinical aspects of reproductive science as she was a Senior Embryologist for over 10 years. Gemma has spent the last few years developing her interest in qualitative research with kidney disease patients, with a focus on patient care, improving patient treatment pathways and outcomes. Her experience in the clinical setting and complex qualitative research models of care will be a great asset for the T2/T3 program at Sydney Catalyst.


Penny Cannan, BArch (Hons)     

200PennyCannan2Involvement in Sydney Catalyst: Penny is  the Sydney Catalyst Communications Officer.  She is responsible for assisting with the development and coordination of a range of communication and education activities, with the aim to build capacity and facilitate professional development in translational cancer research.

Background: After an architectural career spanning 10 years, Penny channelled her experience in client liaison, project management and design into the realm of marketing and communications. She recently completed AWARD School, an intensive course in creative idea generation for writers and art directors. Penny writes articles online for Cityscape Creative Cities, a journal focusing on creativity in the built environment, and she has hosted numerous art exhibitions throughout Australia. Her diverse experience brings a fresh perspective to her communications role with Sydney Catalyst.


Bonnie Laxton-Blinkhorn, MA (Hons) Political Studies, PGDip Journalism    

STAFFbonnieLaxtonBlinkhornInvolvement in Sydney Catalyst: Bonnie is the Sydney Catalyst Education Officer and works with the rest of the Sydney Catalyst team to coordinate events and other educational activities for our members, aiming to build capacity in translational research.

Background: Bonnie comes from a media background and has worked in a variety of communication roles in many parts of the English speaking world. After seven years of running a successful home based communications consultancy she is now keen to balance this out with the challenge of working in a collaborative office based environment.  


Michelle Lai, BA (Psych), MRes (Phil)

Involvement in Sydney Catalyst: Michelle is the Sydney Catalyst Research Assistant. She works across T1-T3 projects.