University of Melbourne

Professor Trevor Kilpatrick is the Director of the Melbourne Neuroscience Institute (MNI), the principal body for the promotion of cross‑disciplinary research in the Neurosciences at the University of Melbourne.

The past year has been an important and successful one for Neurosciences at the University of Melbourne.The four foundation themes of the University’s Melbourne Neuroscience Institute (MNI) continue to flourish.

  • Stem Cells Australia completed a successful three year review by the Australian Research Council.
  • The Melbourne Brain Centre Imaging Unit commissioned the 7T MRI that now sits beside a PET-CT instrument to provide our researchers with state-of-the-art capability to assess the structure and function of the human brain in health and disease.
  • The Centre for Neural Engineering continues to excel and in particular is focusing on the development of an effective point of care nano-sensor which could revolutionise the assessment of health and wellbeing.
  • The Music, Mind and Wellbeing initiative has continued its successful partnership with the Melbourne Recital Centre to deliver the ‘Music on the Mind’ seminar series and plans for the establishment of a Music Garden in collaboration with the City of Melbourne are well advanced.

Important links with other academic institutions with prominent neuroscience programs have also been forged. These include partnerships with the Salpetriere in Paris and the Hotchkiss Institute in Canada, resulting in the genesis of student exchange programs and planning for theme-based conjoint workshops to commence in 2016.

The MNI spearheaded an important new initiative for our graduate researchers in 2014, designed to enhance expertise in areas relevant to their PhD projects. The initiative comprised four advanced workshops devoted to advanced neural imaging, stem cell science, ion channel recordings and live-cell microscopy. Feedback from students, supervisors and coordinators of the workshops was very encouraging and in response to this, the program expanded in 2015.

As in previous years, we offered a series of interdisciplinary seed funding grants as well as postgraduate fellowships. We are pleased to report that our internal auditing has identified that a significant number of previous recipients of these awards have been successful in obtaining subsequent peer-reviewed funding for their work.

Our outreach program continues to expand. The activities range from a vibrant public seminar program to a series of opportunities offered to high school students that provide insight into the importance of neuroscience to the community and what a career in the neurosciences entails. Importantly, we now have a portal to enable those who wish to donate to Neuroscience-focused research at the University to do so in a directed manner.

Highlights also included a series of visits by high profile dignitaries. These included Mr John Berry, US Ambassador to Australia, who discussed ways in which we could potentially optimise links with US researchers for mutual benefit under the umbrella of President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative. The UK Minister for Higher Education, Mr Peter Willett, provided a vision of how government can assist in optimising research translation. The UK Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Dementia Research, Dr Dennis Gillings, discussed ways in which we can work together to accelerate the global fight against dementia.

Trevor Kilpatrick was also appointed as a scientific adviser to the Yulgilbar Alzheimer Research Program (YARP). Mr Baillieu Myer AC and his daughter, Samantha Baillieu, have established the YARP with the aim of assisting researchers who are working to produce drugs that will prevent, slow down or cure Alzheimer’s disease. This is an important initiative that we are pleased to be involved with and it comes at an important time for research into Alzheimer’s disease, given that the Commonwealth Government has also pledged $200m for dementia research over five years.

The MNI is currently involved in crafting several important new initiatives, the majority of which are being fashioned as multi-centre collaborative interactions. Of particular importance is the Centre for Brain Injury (CBI) which should fundamentally transform the coordination of traumatic brain injury-related research in the State of Victoria. The CBI will also provide a focus for community engagement to promote prevention and to improve outcomes after traumatic injury. We are also engaging with the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences to scope an initiative with the long-term aim of promoting drug development for neurological diseases, recognising our complementary talents in this arena, and with the ultimate aim of developing interactions with commercial partners. It should be acknowledged that these initiatives have been very much facilitated by ongoing productive engagement with Neurosciences Victoria, which has played a key role in catalysing the relevant interactions.