Positioned to shape the future

SUCCESS STORIES: The new  HMRI facility  and a virotherapy firm co-founded by the University of Newcastle and lead researcher Associate Professor Darren Shafren.

SUCCESS STORIES: The new HMRI facility and a virotherapy firm co-founded by the University of Newcastle and lead researcher Associate Professor Darren Shafren.

Sir Isaac Newton spoke of “standing on the shoulders of giants” to glimpse the future and today’s HMRI Board is focused on doing the same, now that our forebears have laid such a magnificent platform.

BREAKTHROUGH: A new “biobank” for brain cancer research is being established at HMRI courtesy of funding from the Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF).

BREAKTHROUGH: A new “biobank” for brain cancer research is being established at HMRI courtesy of funding from the Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF).

The state-of-the-art HMRI Building adjacent to John Hunter stands as testament to political persuasion, perseverance and concerted community engagement. From here we can afford to take a longer view forward.

BREAKTHROUGH: A new “biobank” for brain cancer research is being established at the Hunter Medical Research Institute courtesy of funding from the Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF).

BREAKTHROUGH: A new “biobank” for brain cancer research is being established at the Hunter Medical Research Institute courtesy of funding from the Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF).

Our task, as current custodians, is to fortify and strategically position the Institute for the next 20 years. It’s no longer about bricks and mortar in the Building’s case, more the mortals working inside and on partner campuses who will deliver the next wave of research outcomes.

 I believe that researchers over the next 20 years will become increasingly reliant on philanthropic donations as federal and state healthcare purse strings are tightened.

Our task, as current custodians, is to fortify and strategically position the Institute for the next 20 years.

HMRI and its partners have fantastic researchers making ground-breaking discoveries. This can be evidenced by non-parochial and peer-reviewed funding successes on the national stage. Economists call it the leveraging factor, where local donor seed-funding subsequently attracts substantially larger amounts.

There are no rivalries here – businesses from all fields of industry see the big picture and the social benefit of helping their clients, staff and the regional economy.

Recently there was the example of biotech firm Viralytics being subject to a $500 million acquisition bid by US pharmaceutical company Merck – it began with a $25,000 project grant from the Greater Building Society (now Bank) in HMRI’s own formative days. The University of Newcastle helped nurture that seed through to fruition.

Funding of $38,000 for a study in chronic back pain resulted in a federal government grant of $650,000, a leveraging ratio of 1:17. And, of course, Hunter people with bad backs were among the first to benefit.

In another example of industry support and endeavour, the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation co-funded a revolutionary laser microscope for three young researchers. Built by hand, using plans and parts from the internet, it cost just $70,000 where commercial versions cost $1 million.

It has led the researchers to create and populate the world’s first ‘virtual’ biobank of tumour tissue. 

Where regionality has been one of HMRI’s unique qualities, our footprint will inevitably have to spread. HMRI’s Sydney Foundation is doing some heavy lifting, raising $165,000 to help buy and trial two Strokefinder helmets for emergency diagnosis. The helmets are in John Hunter Hospital, being tested for future roll-out as we speak.

Moving forward, the equation is straightforward – the more funds we attract, the more government grants we can aim for, the more patients we can help.

Our researcher affiliation numbers continue to grow and the HMRI Building is already nearing capacity. Sooner, rather than later, we will be venture back to the halls of power seeking funding for a much-needed second building.

Payback will come in the form of innovation, which goes hand-in-hand with economic growth and employment, improves our knowledge base and enhances the quality of life for everyone in the region.

  • Kyle Loades, HMRI Chairman