From the director

From the director

Illuminate newsletter index page, September 2019
September 2019


Institute director Professor Doug Hilton AO.

2019 has been an exciting year at the Institute – and we still have three months to go! Our researchers have seized many opportunities presented by our new structure, and it is thrilling to hear about the new research discoveries emerging, particularly those stemming from collaborative research.

Accolades for Institute scientists

Three of our scientists have received significant recognition.

This month we were thrilled to learn that Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller has won the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the most prestigious American honour in medical research. Jacques was a joint winner for his discovery of immune T and B cells, made at the Institute in the 1960s. This discovery was ground-breaking in what was then the emerging field of immunology.

The consequences of the research touch on almost every aspect of our research today. B and T cells are critical for immune responses to infection, and drive many aspects of inflammatory diseases and the inflammation linked to many neurodegenerative disorders. Lymphoma, myeloma and lymphocytic leukaemias are all cancers of B and T cells. And, finally, T cells are at the heart of many cancer immunotherapies.

It is fantastic to see Jacques recognised for his scientific achievement – which is just one highlight from his impressive career. Although Jacques officially retired in 1996, he is frequently seen at the Institute, contributing to current research projects and generously mentoring our researchers.

I also extend my heartfelt congratulations to Associate Professor Wai-Hong Tham and her colleagues, who won the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research; and her fellow malaria researcher Professor Alan Cowman AC, who was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia. Wai-Hong and Alan are both fantastic researchers and leaders at the Institute, and this recognition is duly deserved.

Continuing to strengthen our connections

As an institute serving a large and diverse community, we offer many opportunities for people to connect with us. If you are in Melbourne, I encourage you to visit our Art of Science exhibition, which will be in Federation Square’s Atrium from 13-22 September.

Our alumni have many opportunities for reconnecting, both online and in person. In August I had the pleasure of meeting up with alumni from across Europe, at a reunion in Munich. We also hosted a reunion for 1990s alumni in Melbourne, which was a wonderful occasion to catch up on the many paths our alumni have taken over the past 20+ years. There are reunions planned for alumni in Boston, Beijing and Shanghai later this year.

While we have been celebrating our alumni, we have also been welcoming potential future students to the Institute. Many of next year’s students will be working into the second half of this century – 100 years after Jacques Miller’s seminal discoveries about the immune system. Our research now has the goal of improving health into the future – and our future students will be improving the health of generations after that. It’s wonderful to consider the legacy that our discoveries today could have!

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

Photo of large group of alumni members

Keep in contact and share reminiscences with fellow alumni