Follow mitoNET 

Copyright © 2018, MitoNET. All Rights Reserved.

Keynote Speakers

MITO2019 is bringing together world-renowned leaders on mitochondrial innovation to discuss and highlight the Power of Mitochondria to transform human health. 

Headshot EW.jpg

Patient Engagement in Research

Dr. Erin Walker

Head of Public and Patient Involvement, UCL Partners

Originally hailing from Canada, Dr Erin Walker is currently based at an Academic Health Science Network, UCLPartners, in London, UK as the Patient Insight and Involvement Lead. She did her BSc (Hons) at the University of Victoria in Canada, before moving to the UK for a Master’s degree in Psychology Research.  She completed a PhD in Psychology in 2011 on quality of life for liver transplant patients at the University of Sheffield. She has worked on research projects involving adults post-stroke (King’s College London), adults with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust), and children and young people waiting for, or who have received, a heart and/or lung transplant (Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust). Dr Walker has spent the past 6 years focused on patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE), first at the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at Great Ormond Street Hospital, then at the NIHR University College London Hospitals BRC. Dr Walker has been a co-investigator on 4 grants from the NIHR, three as the lead for PPIE, and one as a patient representative.  Dr Walker is also currently the PPIE co-investigator on the NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit, for the UK Department of Health and Social Care.  Her research interest is in the area of involving children and young people with various mental and physical conditions in research.  

Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy

Dr. Tania Bubela

Dean of Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Frasier University

Dr. Bubela was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in September 2017. Prior to that appointment, she was Professor and Associate Dean (Research) in the School of Public Health and Adjunct Professor in Alberta Business at the University of Alberta (U of A), Canada. She joined the faculty of the U of A in 2004 after clerking for The Honourable Louise Arbour at the Supreme Court of Canada, articling at Field Law LLP in Edmonton, and being called to the bar (Law Society of Alberta) in 2005.   


Her research program in intellectual property and health law, focused on translational biomedical research, brings together her legal training and a PhD in biology and expertise in genetics and molecular biology. Her research program focuses on large collaborative science networks in genomics, gene therapy, and stem cell biology. It addresses barriers to the development and effective translation of new technologies. These are varied and include ethical issues, effective communication of risks and benefits among stakeholder groups, commercialization and regulation. She provides advice for governmental health and science agencies as well as life sciences research communities, and patient organisations.

Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy

Dr. Vardit Ravitsky

Associate Professor, Université de Montréal

Dr. Ravitsky is an elected Board member and Treasurer of the International Association of Bioethics (IAB). She is a member of CIHR's Institute Advisory Board on Research Excellence, Policy and Ethics. Previously, she was a Board Member and Ethics Designate of CIHR's Institute of Genetics (IG) and Co-Charired this Institute's "GE3LS and Health Services and Policy Research Priority and Planning Committee" (GE3LS stands for Genomics research and its Ethical, Economic, Environmental, Legal, and Social aspects). Ravitsky is a member of the University of Montreal's Public Health Research Institute (IRSPUM(, of the Quebec Reproduction Network (RQR), and of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS). Previously, she was faculty at the Department of Medical Ethics, School of Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania. She was also a Senior Policy Advisor at CIHR's Ethics Office and a GE3LS consultant to Genome Canada.


Prof. Ravitsky's research focuses on reproductive ethics and the ethics of genetic and genomics research. Her research interests in bioethics also include research ethics, health policy and cultural perspectives. She is particularly interested in the various ways in which cultural frameworks shape public debate and public policy in the area of bioethics. Her research projects are funded by CIHR, FRQSC, SSHRC, and Genome Canada. She published over 100 articles, book chapters and commentaries on bioethical issues, and is lead-editor of "The Penn Center Guide to Bioethics".

Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy

Dr. Alice Virani

Director, Clinical Ethics Service, Provincial Health Services Authority of BC

Clinical Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medical Genetics, UBC

Alice Virani is the Director of the Clinical Ethics Service for the Provincial Health Service Authority of BC. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at UBC. She enjoys teaches ethics in a number of graduate, clinical and public settings. Alice has also spent 9 years serving as the ethicist on a number of different research ethics boards. Her research interests relate to the many ethical issues inherent within clinical practice and research in genetic and genomic medicine and she has published in a broad range of peer reviewed journals and lay media in this area.


Before moving into ethics, Alice was a genetic counselor in the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. She has a masters in Human Sciences from Oxford University, a masters in Genetic Counseling from Sarah Lawrence College, a masters in Public Health from Columbia University, and a PhD in Genetics and Ethics from UBC. Alice also does consulting work for clients such as the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada.


Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy

Naomi Laliberte

Patient Advocate

Naomi Laliberte is a Mitochondrial disease patient who works as a dental hygienist in Montreal. She was diagnosed at the age of 31 when her children fell ill. As she continues to care and advocate for herself, 2 children and family members, she focuses her efforts on helping families navigate the diagnostic process. 

James McCully

Mitochondrial Transplant

James Donald McCully

Associate Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School & Boston Children Hospital

Dr. McCully’s research focuses on the mechanisms and subcellular localization of the biochemical and molecular events contributing to myocardial cell death. In particular, his lab has investigated the discriminant and/or coordinate mechanisms leading to ischemia/reperfusion injury in the neonate, child, mature and aged male and female with particular emphasis on the development of novel and specific cardioprotective protocols. 

Recently he has developed a novel approach to cardioprotection using autologous mitochondrial transplantation. His research has demonstrated that transplantation of autogeneic mitochondria into the ischemic zone of the myocardium during early reperfusion significantly enhances post-ischemic functional recovery. These studies have shown that the transplanted mitochondria act externally and then are internalized by myocardial cells to provide myocellular rescue and cardioprotection. The transplanted mitochondria upregulate cytokines associated with enhanced post-infarct cardiac function and improvement of cardiac remodeling and upregulate protein pathways associated with the generation of precursor metabolites for energy and cellular respiration with no immune or auto-immune response. The transplanted mitochondria are internalized through actin-dependent endocytosis and rescue cell function by increasing ATP content and oxygen consumption rate. Significantly, he has demonstrated that internalized mitochondria replace depleted or damaged mitochondrial (mt) DNA. 

Sitaram Emani

Mitochondrial Transplant

Sitaram Emani

Associate Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School & Boston Children Hospital

Following completion of training in adult cardiothoracic surgery and pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, Dr. Emani joined the staff at Boston Children’s Hospital.  Dr. Emani is the surgical director for the complex biventricular repair program, and adult congenital heart program. His clinical expertise also includes valve repair and replacement strategies, neonatal heart surgery, and minimally invasive surgery for children.  His research efforts include strategies to “grow” a left heart – including stem cell therapy - in patients with borderline left heart who otherwise would undergo single ventricle palliation.  A major problem in children with heart valve disease is the lack of a valve that can grow as a child grows.  This motivated him to pursue a design of expandable valve technologies, to reduce the need for reoperation in children.  Additional research interests include use of 3-D printing for surgical planning and understanding the clotting system in children after heart surgery. 


Differential Diagnosis of Primary and Secondary Mitochondrial Disease

Prof. Shamima Rahman

Professor of Paediatric Metabolic Medicine, UCL Great Ormond Street Hospital, London

Professor Shamima Rahman is Professor of Paediatric Metabolic Medicine at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (ICH), and honorary consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London. She trained in Medicine at Oxford University, and in Paediatric Metabolic Medicine at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Professor Rahman established the Mitochondrial Research Group at ICH in 2000, with a mission to improve the diagnosis and outcomes for children affected by mitochondrial and other rare metabolic diseases. Her group focusses on discovering mitochondrial disease genes, developing novel computational diagnostic strategies, and investigating therapeutic approaches where there are currently no disease-modifying treatments.


Professor Rahman is an Editor of the Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease and a Senior Editor of the Annals of Human Genetics. She has a passion for education and is currently Senior Adviser to the Society for the Study of Inborn Errors of Metabolism’s Education and Training Advisory Committee. Professor Rahman sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of the French Muscular Dystrophy Association (AFM-Telethon), the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation’s Clinical and Scientific Review Panel, and the Medical Advisory Boards of the Lily Foundation and the Freya Foundation, and acts as a special adviser to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

Sean McKelvey Headshot.jpg

Nutrition and Mitochondria

Dr. Sean McKelvey

CEO, Institute for Personalized Therapeutic Nutrition

Sean McKelvey is a pharmacist and CEO for the Institute for Personalized Therapeutic Nutrition. A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Sean is a recognized leader in pharmacy practice change across Canada. Sean has been acknowledged numerous times for his innovative clinical programs including the Canadian Pharmacists Association Patient Care Achievement Award for Innovation and the BC Pharmacy Association Ben Gant award for Innovation. Sean was also awarded the prestigious Len Mark’s Award which recognizes an individual for demonstrating outstanding dedication to the advancement of pharmacy. Most recently, he was selected as one of the 2019 Leaders in Pharmacy. Sean is currently the co-investigator on two UBC clinical trials investigating how Therapeutic Nutrition can be used to achieve remission of type 2 diabetes.


Mitochondrial Pathways

Dr. Amel Karaa

Director, Mitochondrial Disease Program

Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School

 Dr. Amel Karaa is a board certified internist and clinical geneticist, director of the mitochondrial disease program at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She received the 2013 United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF) Fellowship and is conducting clinical research and clinical trials for mitochondrial disease. She was recently elected president of the Mitochondrial medicine Society and sits on the scientific and medical board for MitoAction and the UMDF. Dr. Karaa is also on the board of Rare New England and the newly launched Mitochondrial Care Network. She is committed to being an advocate for her mitochondrial disease patients and their families and to educate adult providers in recognizing and treating mitochondrial patients within the community.

andrew .png

Mood and Mitochondria


Director, Dauten Family Center for Bipolar Treatment Innovation

& Depression Clinical and Research Program

Dr. Nierenberg leads the MGH Dauten Family Center for Bipolar Treatment Innovation, formerly the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, a center dedicated to finding innovative new treatments, providing high quality clinical care, and educating colleagues, patients, families, and the greater community about Bipolar Disorder. His primary interests are depression, bipolar depression, and novel treatments for mood disorders.

Dr. Nierenberg and his colleagues developed an online research infrastructure called the MoodNetwork, a Patient-Powered Research Network (PPRN) that is part of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The main aim of the MoodNetwork is to bring together patients, caregivers, and other stakeholders who are affected by mood disorders (i.e., Bipolar Disorder and Unipolar Depression) to form a cohort using patient-reported outcomes and electronical medical records as a national infrastructure for future studies and to participate in comparative-effectiveness studies.