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Winter Edition - June 2016

Winter Edition - June 2016
Kathryn North profile photo

Welcome to our June Discovery eNewsletter. In this edition we provide a snapshot of some of our recent projects, including latest nut allergy research as well as ground-breaking cancer research that uses targeted genetic techniques to prevent stomach cancer.

This year we also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Victorian Newborn Screening program which has tested more than 99 per cent of the state’s infants for serious, treatable conditions.

All these achievements would not be possible without the generosity of our community. We are very grateful to you for your support and commitment to create a healthier future for children everywhere.

Together, we have achieved 30 remarkable years of scientific discovery. What will we discover next?

Kindest regards,

Professor Kathryn North AM MD FRACP

MCRI celebrates 30 years of discoveries

In 2016, Murdoch Children's Research Institute celebrates 30 years of life-changing discoveries.

Thirty years ago, two visionaries imagined a better future for our children. Professor David Danks envisioned an independent research institute to study the genetic basis of childhood disorders. When genetic science was in its infancy, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch had the foresight to establish a genetics institute co-located with a children’s hospital. 

Since then, Murdoch Children's Research Institute has grown to become the largest child health research institute in Australia. Our work encompasses all areas of child health research from basic laboratory science to large population studies. We work alongside doctors and nurses to ensure the knowledge we create improves the lives of infants, children and adolescents both in Australia and abroad.

This year, we are celebrating our scientists – the unsung heroes making a real difference to the health of children- and looking back at the remarkable achievements throughout our history.

We are so thankful for the generosity of the community and all our wonderful supporters, without whom we would never have been able to reach all these life-changing milestones.

We are incredibly excited about the next 30 years and beyond.

View the Institute's timeline of key milestones and research discoveries here.

Victoria celebrates 50 years of newborn screening

Victoria is celebrating 50 years of newborn screening, a vital health program that tests more than 99 per cent of the state’s infants for serious, treatable conditions.

Operated by Victorian Clinical Genetics Service (VCGS), which is based at the Institute, the voluntary heel prick test is performed within 48 to 72 hours after birth and almost all parents choose to participate. With 220 babies born in Victoria each day, approximately 79,000 newborn screening tests were performed during 2015.

The newborn screening program commenced in 1966 initially screening for one condition; today, the test screens for 25 rare, but serious medical conditions, including Phenylketonuria or PKU disorder, hypothyroidism and cystic fibrosis.

According to Dr Damien Bruno, Laboratory Director at VCGS, newborn screening is an extremely successful public health program that can make a huge difference in the lives of young families.

The VCGS hosted a special one-day event to mark the anniversary, welcoming researchers, doctors and nurses from across the state who had worked on the program since its inception.

Read more here.

Australia first: Cord blood research may unlock future treatments for cerebral palsy

Australia’s first clinical trial of stem cell infusion from cord blood as a possible treatment for cerebral palsy (CP) is commencing in Melbourne.

For this safety trial, MCRI will recruit children with CP aged one to 11 years, who have sibling cord blood stored in one of Australia’s family cord blood banks. Early-stage clinical studies have suggested that there may be slight improvements in motor function when a child’s own cord blood or unrelated cord blood has been infused in the setting of CP.

“Unfortunately, we hear of many Australian children with CP and their families travelling overseas to receive unregulated stem cell treatments at great cost,” says lead investigator Professor Dinah Reddihough.

“This study is the first step in a promising process that eventually aims to find out whether cord blood infusion is both safe and efficacious for children with the condition.”

Read more about the trial here.

Learn more about Professor Dinah Reddihough's incredible career:

Researchers show altering gut bacteria may prevent stomach cancer

Researchers from the Institute have found that genetic techniques could be used to ‘switch on’ proteins that may protect against stomach cancer.

The study investigated Helicobacter (H.) pylori, a common bacteria that can cause chronic inflammation and lead to stomach cancer.

Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Led by Dr Treve Menheniott and Professor Andy Giraud, researchers investigated the interaction of Gastrokine-2 (GKN2) – a protein normally present at high levels in healthy human stomach and H. pylori.

They found that GKN2 is ‘switched off’ in people with stomach cancer. Upon investigation they discovered mice with H. pylori and the protein switched off were more susceptible to inflammation and stomach cancer than mice with normal GKN2 levels.   

Dr Menheniott said the research could help protect those at risk of stomach cancer by inhibiting tumour growth.

“Restoring GKN2 protein to normal levels in advanced H. pylori infections or stomach tumours may help to slow or prevent progression of this often fatal disease.”

Learn more about this innovation research here.

Find an expert profiles:

Firefighters Charity Fund

We are delighted to announce that the Murdoch Children's Research Institute has been chosen as the charity partner for the 2016 Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb.

This event is run by the Firefighters Charity Fund, raising vital funds for seriously ill children in Australia and around the world.

We want to take this opportunity show our gratitude and wish all the firefighters the best as they take on this enormous challenge on the 3rd of September 2016 – climbing 28 floors wearing 25kgs of turnout gear and breathing apparatus.

We are so grateful to be partnered with such an inspiring community group and thank them for their incredible fundraising efforts.

To find out more about this event, please visit

Mother's Day Celebrations

This year, the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Mother's Day campaign raised significant funds and awareness for child health issues, with a special focus on genomic research.

The Mother's Day committee worked creatively to introduce new supporters through a range of wonderful garden parties.

As well as those members pictured right, the committee includes Susan Houlihan, Ariane Barker, Anna a'Beckett and Genevieve Brammall. Janet and John Calvert-Jones and Mrs Ros Packer also hosted very special events to celebrate Mother's Day and the 30th anniversary of the Institute.

We would like to extend out most sincere thanks to everyone for their commitment and generosity.

Pictured: Tanya Cherny, Nat Deague, Eliza Mantello, Dahlia Sable, Kate Mohr

An evening of classical music in support of child health

The Melbourne Sinfonia is presenting an evening of classical music with all proceeds going towards child health.

The Melbourne Sinfonia is an Auxiliary of the Royal Children’s Hospital – the first hospital in Victoria to have a resident orchestra. Led by Musical Director Joannes Roose, the symphony orchestra performs regular concerts featuring music from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern repertoire.

Their upcoming concert is on the 24th of June, with the program featuring Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture and Les nuits d’été with acclaimed soprano Lee Abrahmsen, followed by Borodin’s Symphony No. 2.

The evening begins at 8.00 pm in the James Tatoulis Auditorium at Methodist Ladies’ College in Kew. Admission is $30, with student prices available and free entry for those 16 and under.

Tickets are available at a discount online via their website at or directly through