From the director

From the director

Illuminate newsletter index page, June 2020
June 2020

Professor Doug Hilton AO.
Professor Doug Hilton AO.

The last three months – since I wrote my March Illuminate column – have been amongst the most memorable months of my life.

In early March, COVID-19 was clearly a disease of global concern, but not an official pandemic. We could see indications of problems in many countries around the world, and were waiting anxiously to see how this new disease would play out in Australia – and how our community would respond.

Over three months, we’ve seen enormous unity and cooperation between Australia’s people, politicians, healthcare workers and scientists to tackle this disease.

I truly think this has saved Australia from what could have been a much more terrible outcome. I know many people have worried for their own health and that of loved ones – and some have lost family or friends either here or overseas. Many of you are experiencing tough times in many ways, and I want to thank you for your part in helping our community to overcome the many challenges posed by COVID-19.

Responding to COVID-19

Here at the Institute, we’ve seen significant changes as well. This newsletter highlights some of the projects we have underway tackling COVID-19, which have drawn on the expertise and talent of our scientists – and built on discoveries made at the Institute over the last century – in infectious disease research, clinical trials, epidemiology, protein chemistry and drug development.

At the same time we have had to make changes to how we work at the Institute to keep our staff and students safe. This included asking some scientists to progress their research from home as much as possible during the peak period of infections, and now we are closely controlling the density of people within our laboratories and other facilities, in line with government regulations.

It has been pleasing to see how adeptly our researchers have adapted to these changes and to witness both impressively rapid progress on COVID-19 research, as well as to see our scientists continue to advance their longer-term research projects in other areas.

Vale Professor Ian Mackay

It was with great sadness that we learnt of the death of respected clinician scientist and Institute alumnus Professor Ian Reay Mackay AM FAA FRACP FRCP FRCPA on 24 March 2020, at the age of 98. Ian was truly a scientific pioneer. His research changed the understanding of the causes of autoimmune diseases, making an enormous impact on how we study them and saving and improving countless lives through better treatments. We offer our sincere sympathies to Ian’s family, friends and former colleagues.

In honour of his remarkable contributions, the Institute has established the Professor Ian Mackay Travel Scholarship Fund to support the bright young scientists who will be making key discoveries in the years to come.

Scientists recognised

In the last three months we’ve had three of our scientists receive recognition from local and international scientific organisations.

Please join with me in congratulating:

  • Professor Jane Visvader, who was admitted to the UK’s Royal Society – a 350-year-old scientific ‘hall of fame’ – for her ground-breaking breast cancer research.
  • Professor Alan Cowman, who has been elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s national academy, for his contributions to malaria research.
  • Professor Andrew Roberts, who joins the Australian Academy of Sciences in recognition of his leading role in advancing new therapies for blood cancers.
     

 

Super Content: 
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Why optical microscopy has become one of the most powerful tools in medical research.

Scientist in the National Drug Discovery Centre

The NDDC enables medical researchers to access ultra-high throughput screening, fast tracking scientific discoveries into new medicines.