From the director

From the director

Illuminate newsletter index page, March 2019
March 2019

Professor Doug Hilton
Institute director Professor Doug Hilton AO.

2019 is well underway and it is shaping up to be a big year at the Institute.

As well as many exciting research projects reaching fruition, our Institute is laying the foundations for discoveries into the next decade by ensuring we have the best possible workforce, and that they have the best environment in which to work.

Drug Discovery Centre funding

I was honoured to welcome the Australian Health Minister the Hon Greg Hunt MP to the Institute in January to announce Australian Government funding to expand our drug discovery capabilities.

In the last two decades, the Institute has made long-term investments that enable our researchers to translate their discoveries to new medicines. This has included embedding expertise in structural biology, medicinal chemistry and high throughput screening, and – with funding from philanthropy and our partial sale of our venetoclax royalties – we were able to begin a new phase of our drug discovery journey, establishing a Drug Discovery Centre.

This has been greatly boosted by a $25 million investment from the Australian Government, which will allow us to open our Drug Discovery Centre to researchers from across Australia later in 2019.

Venetoclax milestone

We were thrilled to again host Minister Hunt in February when he announced the listing of the anti-cancer drug venetoclax on the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

This drug was based on a landmark discovery made at the Institute, and developed and trialled through collaborations involving the Institute and our Parkville neighbours, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter Mac, and companies AbbVie and Genentech. We are proud of the journey that has brought basic research through to clinical impact, and I am confident there will be similar stories of research translation success into the future.

Australia Day Honours

My heartfelt congratulations to our board member Mr Malcolm Broomhead AO, and former board member Mr Mike Fitzpatrick AO, who were both recognised in the 2019 Australia Day Honours. Malcolm and Mike have made enormous contributions to the Institute, both through their careful and insightful governance, but also through philanthropy.

The Malcolm Broomhead Centenary Fellowship is helping to advance research using Australian-first genome-engineering technology to investigate cancer. And Mike and his wife Ms Helen Skyes were important supporters of our Drug Discovery Centre, with a $1 million Centenary gift.

Alumni reunions

Our people are our greatest asset, and our connection with our staff and students does not end when they leave the Institute. In March I am looking forward to reconnecting with our alumni at a reunion in Sydney. This is one of several exciting alumni reunions planned for 2019 at locations around the world. It is always a pleasure to meet the wonderful people who have spent time working or studying at the Institute – and to learn about the next stages of their career journeys.

If you would like to be kept up to date with our alumni events, please email alumni@wehi.edu.au.