Annual Showcase 2021

Annual showcase 2021

Revisit the  Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s virtual Annual Showcase 2021

As we continue our mission to help children live healthier and more fulfilled lives, 2021 marked an important year for progress, and for delivering impact. In this virtual event, hear how five world leading MCRI researchers pioneered ground-breaking health outcomes for children in 2021 to address some of the world’s most serious childhood diseases.  

These medical breakthroughs and health innovations sit amongst some of the best in the world, all occurring amongst the continued pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as lockdown restrictions. 

From hearing loss and epilepsy, to preventing heart damage caused by cancer treatments, these game-changing scientific discoveries underpin the impact MCRI has had in child health research over the past 35 years. 

Please join us as our speakers also share their future vision of child health and the exciting opportunities that await the next 35 years. 

Watch the full 2021 Annual Showcase below.

Meet the Hosts

Professor Kathryn North AC, MCRI DirectorProfessor Kathryn North AC, MCRI Director

Professor North trained as a paediatrician, neurologist and geneticist. Her clinical and research career focused on improving the diagnosis and care of children and inherited neurological disorders associated with physical and intellectual disability. This led to her national and global leadership in genomic medicine and its implementation into clinical practice, ensuring that the latest research advances were rapidly translated into improved healthcare. At MCRI, Kathryn leads a diverse team of over 2,000 researchers with a dedicated focus to improve the health and wellbeing of children.  



Patrick Houlihan, MCRI Chair Patrick Houlihan, MCRI Chair 

Patrick Houlihan has been Chair of MCRI since November 2020 and a Non-Executive Director since May 2014. He is also a member of the MCRI’s Audit, Finance and Risk Committee and Chair of its Marketing Council. Patrick has been CEO of DuluxGroup Limited since 2007 and Chair since 2019. He is also a Board Member of Industry Innovation and Science Australia, a Member of St Mary’s College Council at The University of Melbourne and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. 



Sarah MurdochSarah Murdoch, MCRI Co-Chair and Global Ambassador 

Sarah Murdoch has been Global Ambassador for MCRI since 2000, a member of the Board of Directors since 2014 and in 2020 joined Patrick Houlihan as Board Co-Chair. Sarah also Chairs MCRI's United States Development Board. Sarah’s significant global contribution and commitment in garnering philanthropic support and funding has allowed MCRI researchers to invest in finding solutions to our most pressing child health questions.  





Meet the guest speakers 

Dr Katherine HowellDr Katherine Howell

Epilepsy Team Leader and Clinician-Scientist Fellow 

Katherine Howell is a Clinician-Scientist Fellow and the Epilepsy Team Leader at MCRI, and a paediatric neurologist and epileptologist at The Royal Children's Hospital. Her work in severe, early-life epilepsies has informed changes to diagnostic pathways and clinical guidelines, benefitting patients, families and health systems. She is recognised nationally and internationally for her work in severe epilepsies, via publications in journals including The Lancet Neurology, Neurology and Epilepsia.  

Katherine’s passion for research began early in her neurology career. She was determined to help make discoveries into the underlying causes of her patients’ epilepsies. With a genetic basis for many different types of epilepsies becoming clearer, Katherine has been leading efforts to provide diagnoses and life-changing treatments for these children.  

Katherine will discuss her efforts to describe the natural history of genetic epilepsy, the future of rapid genetic screening and global collaborations to accelerate discoveries and change children’s lives.  


Associate Professor Sebastian Lunke Associate Professor Sebastian Lunke 

Head of the Division of Genetics and Genomics 

Sebastian Lunke is the Head of the Division of Genetics and Genomics at the Victorian Clinical Genetics Services (VCGS) and MCRI. His team is one of the largest officially accredited clinical genetics and genomics laboratories in Australia, with a strong focus on integrated pathology and translation of novel technologies into the clinic. Sebastian is passionate about continuous improvement and driving innovation in genomics through multi-disciplinary collaboration.  

Sebastian will speak about the evolution of clinical genomics in Australia and at VCGS and the impact that ultra-rapid genomics has on the clinical care of critically ill children in intensive care. He will also present his vision for the role of genomics in the health care system of the future. 

Associate Professor David Elliott Associate Professor David Elliott 

Heart Regeneration Team Leader

David Elliott is Team Leader of the Heart Regeneration Group at MCRI. After working at the Victor Chang Institute, Cambridge University and Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, he established the Cardiac Development Laboratory at MCRI in 2012, where he has been working on differentiating hESCs as a model of human heart development. 

David will discuss his team’s efforts to re-create heart diseases in a dish. They are using human stem cells to create miniature beating hearts, and then screening new drugs that can prevent the heart damage inflicted by common cancer treatments. 

David believes he and his team are poised to discover ‘treatments for the treatments,’ reducing the damaging side effects that children with leukemia can suffer as a result of their cancer treatment. 


Associate Professor Rachel ConyersAssociate Professor Rachel Conyers

Paediatric Oncologist and Clinician-Scientist   

Rachel Conyers is a paediatric oncologist and clinician scientist at the Royal Children's Hospital and MCRI in Melbourne. Her clinical interest focuses on bone marrow transplant, leukaemia, and lymphoma, and she is the Clinical Lead of Malignant Bone Marrow Transplant at the RCH. Her research interest focuses on the life-long side-effects of cancer therapies, particularly those related to cardiac toxicities.  

The goal of Rachel’s work is to make cancer medications safer for patients. Her research aims to uncover why some children are at higher risk of heart side effects in response to common chemotherapy drugs than others.  

Using the power of large patient registries, Rachel is exploring whether a simple blood test before a patient's chemotherapy journey could be the key to helping us unlock safe, personalised cancer medications for patients.  


Associate Professor Valerie SungAssociate Professor Valerie Sung

Paediatrician, Clinician-Scientist Fellow and Population Health Team Leader

Valerie Sung is a Clinician-Scientist Fellow and Team Leader at MCRI and a paediatrician at the Royal Children's Hospital. 

Valerie’s research aims to give all children with hearing loss the best possible chance at treatment, to allow them to develop to their full potential and give their parents a clearer picture about their child’s future at the time of diagnosis.  

Valerie has a long-standing personal interest in hearing loss, and now works to integrate Victoria’s statewide hearing screening program, clinical service and genomics with population-based research, clinical trials, and implementation science. 

Valerie will talk about her efforts to trial a new screening process for cytomegalovirus, a common virus in expecting mums that can have devastating consequences for the newborn, including brain damage and profound hearing loss.