Dr Olivia Burn

Dr Olivia Burn received her PhD from the University of Otago under the supervision of Dr Robert Weinkove within the Cancer Immunotherapy programme at the Malaghan Institute. Her thesis was centred around the innate-like T-cell populations natural killer T (NKT) cells and Vγ9Vδ2 T-cells and how these can be harnessed to enhance cancer vaccine effectiveness, with a particular focus on breast cancer.

Olivia is  currently undergoing a fellowship at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mt Sinai Hospital, New York with Assistant Professor Amaia Lujambio.

"My current research is focussed on liver cancer which is among the most commonly-diagnosed and least-survivable cancers in Aotearoa-New Zealand, with notably higher occurrence and death rates in Māori.

"New drugs that broadly stimulate the immune system (immunotherapies) can increase survival rates, but for most patients this treatment alone will not be effective. My project looks to exploit a recent Malaghan Institute discovery involving modifications to an mRNA vaccine platform to induce targeted immune responses in the liver. As this type of response has been associated with positive outcomes in liver cancer patients, I will assess whether these novel vaccines will combine effectively with approved immunotherapies for liver cancer treatment.

"I'm performing this research in close collaboration with Assistant Professor Amaia Lujambio, an experienced liver cancer biologist at the Icahn School of Medicine, where I aim to utilise their state-of the-art animal models of liver cancer in my research."

Read more about her research here.



Farrand K, Holz LE, Ferrer-Font L, Wilson MD, Ganley M, Minnell JJ, Tang CW, Painter GF, Heath WR, Hermans IF, Burn OK (2022). Using Full-Spectrum Flow Cytometry to Phenotype Memory T and NKT Cell Subsets with Optimized Tissue-Specific Preparation Protocols. Curr Protoc. 2(7):e482.

Burn OK, Farrand K, Pritchard T, Draper S, Tang CW, Mooney AH, Schmidt AJ, Yang SH, Williams GM, Brimble MA, Kandasamy M, Marshall AJ, Clarke K, Painter GF, Hermans IF, Weinkove R (2022). Glycolipid-peptide conjugate vaccines elicit CD8+ T-cell responses and prevent breast cancer metastasis. Clin Transl Immunology. 11(7):e1401

 Prasit KK, Ferrer-Font L, Burn OK, Anderson RJ, Compton BJ, Schmidt AJ, Mayer JU, Chen CJ, Dasyam N, Ritchie DS, Godfrey DI, Mattarollo SR, Dundar PR, Painter GF, Hermans IF (2022). Intratumoural administration of an NKT cell agonist with CpG promotes NKT cell infiltration associated with an enhanced antitumour response and abscopal effect. Oncoimmunology. 11(1):2081009



O K Burn, T E Pankhurst, G F Painter, L M Connor, I F Hermans (2021). Harnessing NKT cells for vaccination. Oxford Open Immunology. 2(1):iqab013


Dasyam N, Sharples KJ, Barrow C, Huang Y, Bauer E, Mester B, Wood CE, Authier-Hall A, Dzhelali M, Ostapowicz T, Kumar R, Lowe J, Maxwell A, Burn OK, Williams GM, Carley SE, Caygill G, Jones J, Chan STS, Hinder VA, Macapagal J, McCusker M, Weinkove R, Brimble MA, Painter GF, Findlay MP, Dunbar PR, Gasser O, Hermans IF (2023). A randomised controlled trial of long NY-ESO-1 peptide-pulsed autologous dendritic cells with or without alpha-galactosylceramide in high-risk melanoma. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2023 Mar 7