Direct from Doug

Direct from Doug

Illuminate newsletter header, Winter 2021
June 2021


Professor Doug Hilton AO

Welcome to the winter edition of Illuminate.

While we had hoped to welcome Institute members onsite for our Annual General Meeting in May, a change to Victorian Government restrictions meant this was not possible. But we do hope to hold more in-person events at WEHI in the months ahead, if restrictions allow.

Investing in Australia’s future

Medical research is a long-term investment in the health of our community. In 2015, the Australian Government established the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), a landmark endowment fund dedicated to providing agile and impactful funding to Australian medical research. Just six years later, and announced in the Federal Budget in May, the MRFF’s full capitalisation of $20 billion has been reached – meaning that more than $650 million in investment returns can be used to provide vital support for medical research.

The MRFF has been a critical addition to Australia’s medical research funding landscape. Several areas of WEHI’s research have benefited from MRFF grants. The most notable of these is our our National Drug Discovery Centre, where MRFF funding – along with vital contributions from the Victorian Government and philanthropists – enabled the establishment of the centre, and grants from the MRFF now support researchers from across Australia to access the centre to progress their research towards potential new medicines.

The agility of the MRFF’s funding was also evident last year when, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, grants could be rapidly deployed to support new COVID-19 research projects, including here at WEHI. A year on, these projects have made great progress. Traditional funding mechanisms would have taken several months of application and review that would not have served Australia’s urgent pandemic response well.

I would also like to congratulate both the Australian and Victorian Governments for their recent commitment to establishing mRNA vaccine manufacturing in Australia. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have highlighted the success of this platform for the rapid development of safe vaccines and could potentially lay the foundation for developing other much-needed vaccines. To have advanced medical manufacturing capabilities in Australia – perhaps even right here in Melbourne – would be an impactful, long-term investment in Australia’s health and our economy.

Congratulations to Gus Nossal and Jacques Miller

Earlier this month, WEHI’s patron, honorary governor and former director, Sir Gustav Nossal, celebrated his 90th birthday. Gus is one of Australia’s best-known scientists, both for his incredible research career as well as his passionate advocacy and engagement work.

In April, former WEHI researcher Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller also celebrated his 90th birthday. Both Gus and Jacques have made enormous contributions to medical research and to WEHI.

Please join me in wishing them all the best!

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