PROF John Silke

PROF John Silke


  • Inhibitor of APoptosis (IAP) proteins
  • Necroptosis
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF)



  • I completed a law degree in King's College, London, before obtaining a second degree in Biochemistry at Churchill College, Cambridge (1992). I completed a PhD in Zürich, Switzerland, with Prof. Walter Schaffner, looking at the role of DNA methylation in the regulation of transcription (1997). A Swiss fellowship allowed me to do a post-doc with Prof. David Vaux in the WEHI, Australia (1997-2005), where I focused on cell death mechanisms and in particular the role of Inhibitor of APoptosis proteins (IAPs) in regulating cell death. After an exciting five year stint running a lab in La Trobe University, Australia, I returned to the WEHI (2011) where my lab now focuses on the programmed cell death pathways; apoptosis and necroptosis, and their intersection with cancer and inflammation.

    I have a strong interest in translational research and was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of TetraLogic Pharmaceuticals Corporation. In this capacity I contributed to our understanding of how IAP antagonist drugs, now called Smac-mimetics, kill cancer cells and the development of a well tolerated Smac-mimetic, called birinapant, that is performing well in clinical trials. At the WEHI I collaborates closely with the Chemical Biology division to generate new small molecule drug like compounds to investigate the biology of, and hopefully one day treat, human diseases.



Selected publications



Education and training

  • Dr, University of Zurich 1997
  • BA (Hons), University of Cambridge 1992
  • LLB, King's College London 1989

Awards and honors

  • NHMRC Fellowship, 2016
  • 2015 Citation & Innovation Award, Thomson Reuters Australia, 2015


Available for supervision

  • Y

Supervision Statement

  • I have (including current students) successfully supervised 15 PhD students and 24 Honours Students as their primary supervisor.

    My lab is interested in how cell death and inflammation are regulated and we focus on three key families of molecules:

    The tumor necrosis factor super family of cytokines (TNFSF) that regulates the immune system and inflammation. Ubiquitin E3 ligases that play an important role regulating signalling from the TNFSF and other critical immune regulators. RIP Kinases, which play an important role in effecting inflammation, apoptotic and necroptotic cell death driven by TNF superfamily cytokines.