Caldera Health develops prostate cancer diagnostic tools to fundamentally change the way clinicians detect and monitor the disease. Since 1990 treatment for prostate cancer has relied on the PSA test, biopsies and Gleason scores to diagnose and stage prostate cancers. However the PSA test has been roundly criticised by medical opinion leaders as flawed and inconclusive, even dangerous. Caldera Health uses RNA biomarkers to identify genetic changes occurring in different forms of cancer. It represents a potential game changer for diagnosing and managing prostate cancer.

Leadership Team | Board | Scientific Advisory Board | Founders | Team and Skills

Leadership Team

Rob Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer

Rob is a highly experienced senior executive, with over 30 years of experience in leadership roles for global pharmaceutical businesses. His most recent experience was as Senior Vice President, Global Innovation Group Leader – Infectious Diseases at The Medicines Company. Rob also held successive positions as Managing Director of Roche Products (NZ), General Manager, Roche Thailand and Head of Global Product Strategy, Virology for F Hoffman La Roche in California.

Dr Keith Hudson, Director of Research and Development

Keith leads Caldera’s scientific, bio-informatics and clinical programmes. Keith has an extensive academic and biotechnology background in immunology, bioinformatics, the application of NGS technology to diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutic intervention guidance.

Dr Kristen Chalmet, Chief Scientist

Kristen manages laboratory and clinical activities. Kristen obtained a Masters Degree in Bioengineering, specialising in Biotechnology and gained extensive experience in sequencing technology in a diagnostic environment through her PhD in Medical Sciences. Kristen provides significant in-depth experience in analytical approaches. Together Keith and Kristen guide the scientific team to develop and implement the scientific strategy.

Jen Barnes, Business Development

Jen is an experienced molecular diagnostics specialist, with over 15 years of experience in the clinical diagnostics field. She spent over 10 years with Roche Diagnostics New Zealand, the last 6 as the Manager of Molecular and Tissue Diagnostics. She also participated on Regional teams responsible for the development of Asia/Pacific Business Plans involving market analysis, product positioning and pricing policy. Jen is a trained molecular biologist who started her career in research and clinical diagnostics. Her experience in both the science and commercial realms means she is adept at providing expert advice to support the commercialisation of life science and diagnostic opportunities.

Michael Laycock, Finance Manager

Michael has a solid foundation in public accounting, working in both Auckland and London before moving to California. He served 19 years at United Commercial Bank in San Francisco in senior management positions that included SVP & Chief Auditor and SVP & Director of Operations and subsequently worked as senior systems development consultant for finance at the PMI Group, Inc. After returning to New Zealand in 2008, Michael has been involved in managing finances for a small number of R&D start-up companies.


Alastair MacCormick, Chairman

Dr Alastair MacCormick is a professional director with global experience in a diverse range of public and private companies, including new venture companies with a technology focus. He spent 14 years as Dean of the Business School at the University of Auckland, and subsequently served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

He is a member of the New Zealand Government’s Innovation Board. Previously he was Chairman of Connect New Zealand, a programme to network technology companies and leverage the experience of the Connect networks in the US and Europe.

Graham Watt, Director

Mr Watt has over 40 years of senior international management experience in medical diagnostics. He was successively Managing Director NZ, Managing Director Australia and Regional Head South East Asia for global leader Roche Diagnostics. Mr Watt has extensive experience in diagnostic business development and the structuring of high growth organisations. He has a broad understanding of the global medical laboratory diagnostics industry and, within it, an extensive personal network of senior business colleagues.

Graeme Clegg, Director

Mr Clegg is an independent director of Caldera Health Limited. His experience includes health products managing the New Image Group with high-growth potential, mergers and acquisitions and developing product brands and sales channels.

Mark Backhaus, Director

Mr Backhaus has extensive experience in the food and beverage industry in the United States before moving to New Zealand as is the co-owner and director development of Burger King NZ Ltd. He brings substantial management and business development skills into Caldera from his broad experience in US markets, company brand development and sales.

Scientific Advisory Board

Professor Brett Delahunt

Expert in urologic pathology with an emphasis on the diagnosis, classification, genetics and prognosis of prostatic and renal neoplasia. He has chaired various conferences for the International Society of Urological Pathology, is an international member of the College of American Pathologists group and a member of the Ministry of Health Working Group for the Prostate Cancer Awareness and Quality Improvement Programme.

Professor Hemamali Samaratunga

An internationally recognized uropathologist with extensive experience in genitourinary pathology, she is the author of over 120 scientific articles in national and international peer-reviewed journals. She is an editorial board member of five (and a reviewer for over 10) internationally recognised medical journals. Dr Samaratunga is the secretary of the ISUP after serving as international councillor for Australia and Oceania from 2006 to 2015.

Professor Glenda Gobe

Dr Gobe is a molecular biologist with a well-established international record of achievements in kidney disease research. An Associate Professor in the University of Queensland Medical School, Dr Gobe is co-director of the Centre for Kidney Disease Research (CKDR).


Jim Watson, Founder, Scientific Adviser

Dr Jim Watson is the Founder and Science Advisor at Caldera Health Limited. In 1994 he founded Genesis Research and Development Corporation Limited serving as Director of Science until 1996 and Chief Executive until 2004. That year he founded BioJoule Limited, a renewable energy company, and was its Managing Director until its sale in 2007.

Previously, he was a professor and Head of the Department of Molecular Medicine at the University of Auckland Medical School (1984-93) and professor at the University of California, Irvine (1975 – 82).

Dr Richard Forster, Co-founder

Dr Richard Forster co-founded Caldera Health with Jim Watson. Dr Forster was a highly creative scientist with extensive knowledge and expertise in molecular biology and genetics. He had senior management roles at Genesis Research Ltd and Lanzatech NZ Ltd.


Dr Watson and Dr Forster were diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, both victims to the flaws of the PSA test. Considering their backgrounds, they felt they were in a unique position to answer unmet clinical needs in prostate cancer diagnosis and founded Caldera Health Ltd.

Dr Watson and Dr Forster performed the initial RNA biomarker selection and designed the process that led to Caldera Health’s diagnostic gene signature. Dr Forster sadly passed away in January 2014.

Up until the end of December 2016 Dr Watson still functioned as an advisor to the scientific and management team at Caldera Health, however sadly he passed away on February 13th, 2017.


Team and Skills

Caldera has assembled a small multidisciplinary team with skills in biology, molecular technologies, bioinformatics and patent filing.

Initial technology development has been led by one of the founders, Dr. Jim Watson. Funding has allowed Caldera to establish a well-equipped laboratory facility in Penrose, Auckland. The team includes:

  • Keith Hudson (PhD University of Auckland). Director of Research and Development, leading Caldera’s scientific, bio-informatics and clinical programs. Keith has a background in immunology, bioinformatics, molecular diagnosis and therapy, personalised medicine and the application of NGS technology to diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutic intervention guidance.
  • Kristen Chalmet (PhD University of Ghent, Belgium). Chief Scientist. Kristen has expertise in genomic sequencing and RNA expression and experience working in accredited laboratories in Belgium and New Zealand.
  • Clare Elton (BSc (Hons) and CoP Forensic Auckland University). Chief Technology Officer. Clare has over 20 years of experience in molecular research and a wide range of skills in project management. Clare has been pivotal in the development of RNA biomarkers, validation and assisted in the development of the RNA Biomarker Amplicon Sequencing technology.
  • Genevieve Johnston (PhD University of Otago). Clinical Study Manager. Genevieve has extensive experience in coordination of clinical studies in USA, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Damian White (BSc Lincoln University). Laboratory Manager and Scientist. IT Support, database development, and Manager of the NGS (next generation sequencing) facility.
  • Nicola Jackson (PhD University of Auckland). Senior Scientist. Leading the project for the optimisation of RNA extraction and cDNA synthesis of low RNA-content urine samples.
  • Bianca Dobson (PhD, Australian National University). Scientist. Bianca focuses on the biochemical background of the RNA biomarkers.
  • Dug Yeo Han (PhD, University of Auckland). Biostatistician. Dug Yeo is responsible for Caldera’s in-house analytical processes for interpreting data from clinical studies.
  • Ji Eun Kim (PhD, University of Auckland). Scientist. Ji Eun is a leading scientist in the development of the urine assay for prostate cancer.
  • David Whittaker (PhD, University of Auckland). Senior Scientist. David is a molecular biologist who is focusing on developing urine prostate cell RBAS sampling. David is experienced in the application of a wide range of molecular techniques to diverse fields of biological research including neuroscience and crop improvement. He has a strong commercial research background.
  • Nancy Frédérickx (PhD Université Libre of Brussels, Belgium). Junior Scientist. Nancy’s role at Caldera involves maintaining and implementing system automation, specifically, assisting in the running of samples using the automated RBAS procedure and developing new robotic programs.

In addition, while Caldera now performs most of its next generation sequencing in-house, it has drawn on the expertise of Dr Tony Lough, Chief Executive of New Zealand Genomics, Limited (NZGL) Dunedin and has contracted some of sequencing and bioinformatic analyses to NZGL.