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PhD in Biochemistry and Cell Biology

Griffith checked all the boxes for Dr Ito when deciding where he wanted to take his university education to the next level – promising research projects on offer in the field of cancer immunology, access to world-class facilities in the University’s health precinct and a desirable Gold Coast lifestyle.

“I was working as a researcher at Kobe Pharmaceutical University in Japan and looking for new opportunities, when I read about some interesting research at Griffith,” he said.

“I had never written an email in English before, but I was really interested in what was on offer at the University and wanted to learn more before making such a big decision.”

A few carefully constructed emails later and with support from Griffith, Dr Ito left his life in Japan behind moving to the Gold Coast where he learnt to surf and enrolled in a Griffith English Language Institute (GELI) course.

“It was the best year of my life,” he said.

“I met lots of people from all over the world and learnt about so many different cultures, it was really fun.”

The GELI program marked the beginning of Dr Ito’s Griffith PhD journey, giving him the English skills needed to begin a higher degree by research at the University and helping him settle into life in Australia.

“It can be really hard to adjust to a new culture, but the teachers were very supportive,” he said.

“They helped me become a better communicator and prepared me for my degree.”

Dr Ito started a master’s in medical research in 2009, but the promise of a scholarship and support from his Griffith supervisor led him on to a PhD in cancer immunology research.

He was in the middle of his PhD when there was a massive breakthrough in immune based cancer therapies in the United States.

“The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved the first ever cancer immunology therapy, which was cutting-edge in the field of biology at the time,” he said.

“It gave people a lot of hope, especially for melanoma patients and presented huge opportunities in my research at Griffith.”

Dr Ito’s PhD and research experience at the University helped land him a research job at Columbia University in New York, which led to a postdoctoral research fellowship at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Dr Ito initially wanted to stay in academia but decided to move into industry research, taking a job at Prelude Therapeutics in Delaware last year.

He is now part of a small team working on improving targeted drug treatments for leukaemia patients.

“As I started to establish my career and met with industry people, I realised there were opportunities to continue doing science-driven research outside of academia,” he said.

“I used to just focus on the biology, but now I need to think about the chemist creating the compound, different data sets and clinical trials, it’s very collaborative and reminds me of my time at Griffith.

“It also feels really good to be involved in a project that is beneficial to patients.”

Dr Ito said Griffith encouraged him to think about what was going on in the world and the future, something he has continued to do in his own life.

“It’s a good idea to think two to three years in the future, set goals and experience the world,” he said.

“My time at Griffith has led to many opportunities.”

Dr Ito’s Griffith PhD thesis

Galectin-1 as a Potent Target for Cancer Therapy: Role in the Tumour Microenvironment

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