Where are they now: Kim Newton (alum years 1996-2000)

Where are they now: Kim Newton (alum years 1996-2000)

Illuminate newsletter header, Winter 2021
June 2021

Alum Dr Kim Newton is passionate about solving
biological puzzles.

Kim Newton (alum years 1996-2000) leads a research group studying the role of cell death in inflammation at Genentech in the USA.

What do you currently do?

I lead a research group studying the role of cell death in inflammation, part of the Physiological Chemistry Department of Genentech’s research organisation in South San Francisco, US.

Briefly describe your research achievements at WEHI.

There are multiple molecular pathways that trigger apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death, and these can be disrupted in certain diseases. My PhD project in Professor Andreas Strasser’s lab examined the role of an ‘extrinsic’ (externally triggered) apoptosis pathway in the development of immune T cells.

While studying an inhibitor of extrinsic apoptosis, we unexpectedly discovered it was required for T cells to respond to certain immune stimuli. We had stumbled upon another cell death program called necroptosis, which likely evolved as a defence mechanism against pathogens that can inhibit extrinsic apoptosis.

What are you most passionate about?

Solving biological puzzles!

Unexpected results can be the most exciting because they challenge you to re-evaluate your models – and then the detective work begins.

Who has had an impact on your career?

I’ve had some incredible mentors: Emeritus Professor Dick Bellamy (University of Auckland) for encouraging me to consider a PhD outside of New Zealand. Also Professor Andreas Strasser (Blood Cells and Blood Cancer division head at WEHI), who supervised my PhD, and Dr Vishva Dixit (Vice President and Staff Scientist, Physiological Chemistry, Genentech), both of whom taught me to think critically, identify the important questions and do rigorous science.

What are your professional highlights?

Science can be a rollercoaster of highs and lows, so having your work recognised is always a highlight, whether it is an email from an editor agreeing to publish your work or an invitation to speak at a meeting or another institution.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

My family enjoys throwing the frisbee around – our record is 543 times without dropping it! Of course, it was me who dropped it at 544, much to the consternation of my son.

Super Content: 

Samantha Oakes (alum 2008–2012) talks about her work as Group Leader Cell Survival Group at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

Photo of large group of alumni members

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