Direct from Doug

Direct from Doug

Illuminate newsletter header, Autumn 2021
March 2021
Welcome to the first edition of Illuminate for 2021. I hope many of you are feeling the same sense of hope as I am, with the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

Photograph of Professor Doug Hilton
Professor Doug Hilton AO

As I write this, vaccination has begun for the highest risk groups in Australia, including frontline healthcare staff and hotel quarantine workers.

Fourteen months ago, the virus that would cause the COVID-19 pandemic had not yet been identified. I am filled with a sense of wonder to think how much has been achieved through scientific endeavour in a little more than a year: diagnostics, treatments and now vaccines that are proving effective in slowing the spread of this virus.

Progressing collaborative research

WEHI has started the year strongly, with our staff and students appreciating the easing of COVID restrictions and progressing towards full productivity. Our research labs have returned to full capacity and have welcomed a new cohort of students to the benches who are already starting to make their mark on medical research.

Our research has also been strengthened recently by important new collaborations. One of these has been in the area of immune and inflammatory diseases. Together with colleagues at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, WEHI clinician-scientists Professor Ian Wicks and Dr Charlotte Slade have established the Victorian Immune Diseases BioBank, a resource that provides researchers with access to a range of clinical samples that will accelerate the translation of their work towards new diagnostics and treatments.

You can read more about it in this article, and what WEHI’s research into immune disorders has already meant for one Melbourne family.

In this edition, you can also read about a significant research alliance between WEHI and the World Health Organization (WHO), focussed on combatting anaemia – a significant health problem in Australia and around the world. The new WHO Collaborating Centre for Anaemia Detection and Control, led by clinician-scientist Associate Professor Sant-Rayn Pasricha, is an exciting new global health initiative at WEHI, and has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

Welcome support for innovation

Late last year, we were thrilled to host the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy Jaala Pulford to WEHI, where they announced a new $2 billion investment in the Breakthrough Victoria Fund.

This fund will invest in Victorian healthcare innovations so that local medical research discoveries can benefit people globally. I see it as a visionary and exciting addition to Victoria’s medical research sector, and I am confident that the Victorian community will reap many benefits.

Vale WEHI alumni

Sadly, the last few months have seen the passing of several friends and former WEHI colleagues; immunology researcher Emeritus Professor John Marbrook, cancer researcher Dr Julie Wilson-Annan and Ms Maria Karvelas, a public health specialist. I send my sincere sympathy to everyone who knew and loved these WEHI alums, who will be dearly missed.

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