From the director

From the director

Illuminate newsletter index page, June 2019
June 2019

Professor Doug Hilton
Institute director Professor Doug Hilton AO.

It is almost ten years since I became Institute director and I find myself reflecting on an eventful and rewarding decade.

We’ve seen many changes in the Institute, the medical research sector and our community; however, our scientists’ commitment to collaborative, basic and translational research has been a constant, motivating and exciting force.

In 2009 our building and renovation project was underway but not yet completed. With the additional space we gained, the Institute has almost doubled the number of research labs and staff. The funding landscape has also changed with the establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund and the Institute’s income from the sale in 2017 of royalties in anti-cancer medicine venetoclax.

Over the same period there have been dramatic improvements in research technologies such as imaging, genomics and proteomics which have created new opportunities for new streams of research and new challenges in areas like computational biology which is becoming more and more critical for our work. 

Responding to change

At our recent Annual General Meeting we launched our Strategic Plan 2019-2023, which will guide the Institute in the years ahead and ensure we continue to shape contemporary scientific thought and make important contributions to improving health.

Collaboration and diverse, multidisciplinary teams have become key to solving the world’s most challenging health problems. We continue to focus on cancer, infectious disease, immune and inflammatory diseases.

Researchers around the world are beginning to understand the deep connections between development and early childhood and our ongoing good health. We are therefore embarking on a new research area: healthy development and ageing. 

These factors have led us to recast our research priorities, focussed around five themes:

  • Cancer Research and Treatments
  • Healthy Development and Ageing
  • Infection, Inflammation and Immunity
  • Computational Biology 
  • New Medicines and Advanced Technologies.

Our new structure provides many opportunities for important and impactful discoveries, and I look forward to sharing these with you.

Welcoming our new Board President

Another significant moment at our Annual General Meeting was the announcement by Mr Chris Thomas AM that he would be stepping down as Board President.

Chris joined our Board in 2001 and has provided steady guidance through a long period of growth and change. Since 2013, as Board President, he has championed many important infrastructure, governance and philanthropic initiatives at the Institute.

In recognition of Chris and his wife Cheryl’s important contributions to the Institute, we have announced a new Chris and Cheryl Thomas Leadership Award, which will provide development opportunities for emerging leaders at the Institute.

At the same meeting, Dr Graham Mitchell AO, an alumnus of the Institute who made seminal discoveries in the areas of immunology and parasitology and joined the Board in 2007, also stepped down.

Mrs Jane Hemstritch, previously our Board’s Vice President, will become our 17th Board President. Jane joined the Board in 2013, bringing a combination of scientific training and a wealth of experience in leadership incorporate and not-for-profit organisations.

On behalf of everyone in the Institute and our wider community, I thank Chris and Graham for their significant and lasting contributions and wish them well for the future. I also look forward to working closely with Jane as we implement our new strategic plan.


Super Content: 
Portrait photo of Jane Hemstritch

Mrs Hemstritch, who has been a board member since 2013, has extensive leadership experience in technology and professional services companies.

Venetoclax timeline of discovery

Starting with a landmark discovery in 1988, follow the story of how Institute research has driven development of a breakthrough anti-cancer drug. 

Photo of large group of alumni members

Keep in contact and share reminiscences with fellow alumni

Virus animation on library dome, part of White Night 2014

Check out our YouTube channel: latest WEHI.TV animations, videos of our public lectures, news releases and staff profiles.