Last week was one where a number of events occurred which illustrated the diversity of work and the activities at QIMR Berghofer. It started with my return from India following a scientific meeting, which is part of our Asian Strategy, and discussions with a major pharmaceutical company, which is part of our commercialisation strategy. On Monday I attended meetings where the potential collaborations between the institute and others worldwide in the US led Moonshot Cancer Program started the day and continued with discussions with a team from BGI, the Chinese genomics company.
On Tuesday the Deputy Premier, the Minister for Health and another Minister attended a press conference to announce an agreement which establishes the BGI Headquarters in Australia within our building. This will be the start of an interesting phase of interactions with this very significant company. The Minister for Science, Information Technology and Innovation then hosted an event to witness the formal signing of the agreement with BGI.
Almost simultaneously a very significant paper from Michelle Wykes from the Institute was published in a top ranked scientific journal; Immunity. This describes a new immune checkpoint player. Interestingly, its discovery came from her work on malaria infection and included collaboration with James McCarthy who is carrying out human challenge studies where his team injects live malaria parasites into volunteers at our clinical trials company, Q-Pharm, then tests new drugs for consideration from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Medicines for Malaria Venture).
Michelle Wykes’ work holds great promise for the future. Molecules such as the one she described are already in the clinic and make a major indent on melanomas. However, the drugs on the market do not work on every cancer or on every individual with melanoma so new therapies are needed and we continue to work with Michelle on that in our recently established SEEDBox®.
In another development during the week, we announced the outcome of the research carried out by Stuart MacGregor and colleagues worldwide on oesophageal cancer, identifying new genes that contribute to the onset of this cancer and again opening up pathways for future treatments.
A little earlier than this, my article on the impact of Brexit and researchers was published in EMBO Reports. To cap the week off I attended the Bangara dance performance which celebrates through dance and music the history and role of the indigenous people in Australia.
This was not quite a typical week but one that illustrates how research at QIMR Berhofer is giving rise to practical outcomes, how our commercialisation policies are kicking in, how our links with Asia are consolidating and how in the midst of all of that, it is possible to have balance and interesting life outside of work.