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Co-Founder, Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Professor David Danks

Hailed as the pioneer of human genetics research in Australia, Professor David Danks founded the Murdoch Institute with the vision that genetics would one day become part of standard patient care.

David started his paediatric career at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). Although he was a much-loved doctor, mentor and teacher, it was clear David’s passion lay in research, specifically clinical genetics, which in the 1960’s had not yet found its way in to mainstream medicine.

Undeterred by the challenge of bringing the discipline to the fore, David received training in the United Kingdom and United States from the very best in the clinical genetics world and bought this valuable knowledge with him on his return to Melbourne. In 1967, he set up the Genetics Research Unit, a small research outfit based at RCH.

David, along with Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and other supporters, formally established the Murdoch Institute for Research into Birth Defects in 1986. He led the Institute as founding Director until his retirement almost a decade later.

David’s personal research achievements were also impressive. In a series of landmark papers published in the early 1970’s, David and his team showed that Menkes syndrome, a condition that can lead to brain damage, retarded growth and death, was a disease of copper absorption. He maintained his interest in the disease throughout his career and was one of a team that found the genetic cause of the condition.

Under David’s leadership, the Murdoch Institute became the premier centre for genetics research worldwide, growing to more than 200 staff by the time he retired in 1995. Since merging with the RCH Research Institute, the Murdoch Children's Research Institute has expanded into all areas of child and adolescent health. Now Australia’s largest child health research Institute, the 1900 staff and students of Murdoch Children's continue to be inspired by Professor Dank’s appetite for discovery and excellence. 

 “David was a remarkable doctor, scientist, teacher, mentor, family man, friend, and champion of good causes. His immense vision, talent, energy, tenacity, unflinching appetite for excellence, and warm and caring nature remain a shining inspiration to us all.”
Professor Andy Choo, Esteemed Honorary Fellow, Murdoch Children's Research Institute