Dr Petr Tomek

BSc, MSc, RNDr, PhD

Biography

I am an emerging cancer biologist and drug developer at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre. I have a broad expertise spanning analytical chemistry, chemical, molecular and cell biology, bioinformatics, immune-oncology and drug discovery. My research mainly focuses on development of technologies to optimise cancer patients' responses to life-saving immunotherapies. But I am also interested in basic cancer biology research, chemical biology, and high throughput genomic and drug discovery research tools. I enjoy data visualisation and analysis and frequently contribute thsi expertise to the projects of my colleagues.

During my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Europe (Czech Republic), I was involved in the discovery of bacterial metabolites with anticancer activities. I have identified a previously unreported chemical class of bacterial cytotoxins and illuminated the mechanism whereby these ubiquitous bacterial toxins pose danger to human health. I have moved to Auckland to pursue my PhD with the team of Professor Lai-Ming Ching at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre. I have made significant contributions to the development of patented inhibitors to the immunosuppressive enzymes indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) and tryptophan 2,3 dioxygenase 2 (TDO2) for potential use in cancer immunotherapy.

Outside of science, I am an accomplished pianist and love classical and big band music. I dance, cycle, and I am a former high-level volleyball player. I combined my passion for science and music and in 2012, I have established a classical music group Trio Pohadka (www.TrioPohadka.com). This group performs in New Zealand, raises funds for cancer research and informs audiences about advances made in the fight against cancer. To date, the Trio has donated close to NZ$ 40,000 to cancer research.

Research | Current

Current research projects:

I am currently developing my independent research programme in two areas:

  1. Understanding the regulation and function of the immunosuppressive tryptophan catabolism in cancer and devising new ways to silence this pathway to potentiate cancer immunotherapy.
  2. Discovery and characterisation of next generation small-molecule inhibitors to the key immuno-suppressive enzymes IDO1 and TDO2 for cancer immunotherapy

Collaborations:

I have a number of established and developing collaborations with both domestic and overseas researchers, notably:

  • Associate Professor Kaylene Simpson (Victorian Centre for Functional Genomics, Australia)
  • Associate Professor Ute Röhrig (SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Switzerland)
  • Dr Raphael Franzini (University of Utah, USA)
  • Associate Professor Brian Palmer (Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, University of Auckland)
  • Associate Professor Jeffrey Smaill (Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, University of Auckland)
  • Dr Euphemia Leung (Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, University of Auckland)
  • Dr Suat Sari (Hacattepe University, Turkey)
  • Dr Melissa Cadelis (School of Chemical Sciences, University of Auckland)

Teaching | Current

  • MEDSCI 744 - Project Design in Biomedical Science

Postgraduate supervision

Current:

  • Rossella Capochiani de Iudicibus (PhD, co-supervisor)

Completed:

  • Chloe Potts (BBiomedSc(Hons), main supervisor)
  • Shanti Gore (MBiomedSc, co-supervisor)

Distinctions/Honours

FELLOWSHIPS AND AWARDS

  • 2017 - John Gavin Postdoctoral Fellowship, Cancer Research Trust NZ
  • 2017 - Keith & Meida Hepburn Young Scientist of the Year Award for research excellence in preceding 5 years, Cancer Society Auckland/Northland
  • 2016 - Kelliher Charitable Trust Emerging Researcher Start-up Award
  • 2015 - Edith C. Coan Postdoctoral Fellowship, Auckland Medical Research Foundation
  • 2015 - Travel award; New Zealand Society for Oncology (NZSO) conference 2015, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • 2015 - The Brett Roche Memorial Award for the top PhD graduate in the department, Cancer Society Auckland/Northland
  • 2014 - School of Medical Sciences Writing Bursary, University of Auckland
  • 2013 - University of Auckland Blues Award in Service & Leadership category for outreach efforts and raising funds for cancer research
  • 2013 - Finalist of the oral presentation category at the HealtheX student conference at the University of Auckland
  • 2011 - University of Auckland International Doctoral Scholarship
  • 2008 - Premium stipend for outstanding academic performance during postgraduate studies, University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic

GRANT FUNDING (PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR)

  • 2020 - Project Grant, Auckland Medical Research Foundation
  • 2017 - Emerging Researcher First Grants, Health Research Council NZ
  • 2017 - Project Grant, Auckland Medical Research Foundation relinquished due to overlap with another successful funding award
  • 2008 - Student project grant, University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic

Areas of expertise

  • Tryptophan catabolism
  • Immuno-oncology
  • Cancer cell biology
  • Chemical and molecular biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Genome engineering
  • Cancer drug discovery
  • High-throughput screening technologies
  • Advanced data visualisation and analysis
  • Programming in R and C# languages

Committees/Professional groups/Services

RESEARCH CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Journal referee (Immunology & Cell Biology, Molecules, Pharmaceuticals, Frontiers in Oncology)
  • 2018-2019 - Grant assessor (Health Research Council NZ, Auckland Medical Research Foundation)
  • 2017 - Chair of the Abstract Assessment Committee, New Zealand Society for Oncology (NZSO) conference

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS AND MEMBERSHIPS

  • 2020-now - Invited reviewer board member; Pharmaceuticals
  • 2015-2017 - Elected executive member of the New Zealand Society for Oncology (NZSO) committee
  • 2016-now - Associate member of the American Association for Cancer Research
  • 2014-now - Member of the NZSO
  • 2012-now - Affiliate Investigator, Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery

MEDIA APPEARANCES

  • several invited research public talks to e.g., private ANZ bank clients or to the general public attending Open Days
  • interviewed by Seven Sharp TVNZ
  • outreach recognition by two entries in FMHS Dean’s Diary and an invited interview for UniNews magazine March 2019

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Sari, S., Tomek, P., Leung, E., & Reynisson, J. (2019). Discovery and Characterisation of Dual Inhibitors of Tryptophan 2,3-Dioxygenase (TDO2) and Indoleamine 2,3-Dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) Using Virtual Screening. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24 (23).10.3390/molecules24234346
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Euphemia Leung
  • Tomek, P., Gore, S. K., Potts, C. L., Print, C. G., Black, M. A., Hallermayr, A., ... Ching, L. M. (2018). Imprinted and ancient gene: A potential mediator of cancer cell survival during tryptophan deprivation. Cell Communication and Signaling, 16 (1).10.1186/s12964-018-0301-7
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Cristin Print, Lai-Ming Ching
  • Tomek, P., Palmer, B. D., Flanagan, J. U., Sun, C., Raven, E. L., & Ching, L. M. (2017). Discovery and evaluation of inhibitors to the immunosuppressive enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1): Probing the active site-inhibitor interactions. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 126, 983-996. 10.1016/j.ejmech.2016.12.029
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lai-Ming Ching, Brian Palmer, Jack Flanagan
  • Tomek, P., Hallermayr, A., Print, C. G., Sattlegger, E., & Ching, L. (2016). The impact of IMPACT on cancer cell survival during tryptophan deprivation. Paper presented at New Zealand Society for Oncology conference 2016, Palmerston North, New Zealand. 25 October - 26 October 2016.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Cristin Print, Lai-Ming Ching
  • Tomek, P., Palmer, B. D., Kendall, J. D., Flanagan, J. U., & Ching, L.-M. (2015). Formation of fluorophores from the kynurenine pathway metabolite N-formylkynurenine and cyclic amines involves transamidation and carbon-carbon bond formation at the 2-position of the amine. Biochimica et biophysica acta, 1850 (9), 1772-1780. 10.1016/j.bbagen.2015.04.007
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jack Flanagan, Brian Palmer, Lai-Ming Ching
  • Ching, L. M., Palmer, B. D., Tomek, P., Flanagan, J. U., & Henare, K. (2015). A novel class of inhibitors of the immunosuppressive enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) with potential for the treatment of cancer. Paper presented at AACR Annual Meeting 2015, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 18 April - 22 April 2015. Cancer research, volume 75, issue 15 Supplement: Proceedings: AACR 106th Annual Meeting 2015. 10.1158/1538-7445.AM2015-4469
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lai-Ming Ching, Brian Palmer, Kimiora Henare
  • Tomek, P., Hrouzek, P., Kuzma, M., Sýkora J, Fiser, R., Cerný J, ... Hof, M. (2015). Cytotoxic lipopeptide muscotoxin A, isolated from soil cyanobacterium desmonostoc muscorum, permeabilizes phospholipid membranes by reducing their fluidity. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 28 (2), 216-224. 10.1021/tx500382b
  • Tomek, P., Palmer, B. D., Flanagan, J. U., & Ching, L. (2014). Significance of serine-167 and cysteine-129 residues in the active site of the immune-suppressive enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) for the binding of novel inhibitors. Paper presented at 26th EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, Barcelona, Spain. 1 November - 1 November 2014. European Journal of Cancer. 10.1016/S0959-8049(14)70399-5
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lai-Ming Ching, Brian Palmer

Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 504 - Bldg 504
Level B, Room B01
85 PARK RD
GRAFTON
AUCKLAND 1023
New Zealand