Vanessa Hayes completed a PhD at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands in 1999, defining the genetic landscape of key regulator genes driving common human cancers. Returning to South Africa briefly, she headed a Genetics Laboratory focused on genetic risk factors associated with HIV/AIDS. Her interest in prostate cancer sparked by the late Prof Chris Heyns (1949-2014).
In 2003, she joined the Garvan Institute of Medical Research where she led a Cancer Genetics group focused on defining prostate cancer genetic risk factors in Australian men. This work awarded her the Cancer Institute of New South Wales Premier’s Award for Cancer Research Fellow (2007), an Australian Young Tall Poppy Award for Science (2008) and the Australian Academy of Science Inaugural Ruth Stephens Gani Medal for Human Genetics (2008).
Driven by advances in technology, in 2008 she moved to the Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia to establish one of the countries first next generation sequencing research laboratories. She used this technology to drive two large efforts, namely the Southern African Genome Project (Nature 2010) and the Tasmanian Devil Genome Project (PNAS 2011). These efforts resulted in representing Australia as a Fulbright Professional Scholar (Penn State University) and a Professorship at the J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego.
In 2014, Prof Hayes returned full-time to Australia and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research as the University of Sydney’s Petre Chair of Prostate Cancer Research, where she is continuing her research efforts in human comparative and prostate cancer genomics. She has maintained her interest in technology development.