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Strategic plan 2019-2023 Towards Precision Child Health


The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Strategic Plan 2019-2023 provides a snapshot of our plan for the future of child health research. Precision child health harnesses new approaches and technologies, such as genomics, stem cell medicine and big data, to improve the health of our children. Our overarching goal is to improve the prediction, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease.

A revolution in child health research is underway.

In 2018, we set new records for funding and publication success. Building upon our strengths, the opportunity to impact child health is enormous.

As we move towards Precision Child Health as the standard of care, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is at the forefront.

This Strategic Plan sets our path for 2019-2023 to conduct gamechanging research; to further develop our global collaborations and partnerships; and to make a real difference for children. With our Campus partners The Royal Children’s Hospital, the University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics and The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation, we are a

powerhouse of interwoven research, education and clinical care. MCRI’s wholly owned, not-forprofit subsidiary, Victorian Clinical Genetics Services, provides specialist laboratory and clinical genetics services. These services will be intrinsic to the precision child health revolution. Our combined strength enables us to deliver this revolution in child health research, which will impact children across Australia and around the world. Every new discovery we make brings us a step closer to our vision — a world where every child has an equal opportunity for a healthy, fulfilled life.

Professor Kathryn North AC Director


Our purpose


Our values


World-class child health research


Creating possible


Towards Precision Child Health, 2019-2023


Leading with our strengths...


...we will find the answers


United by a common purpose


Strategic priorities


How we will have impact


Together we will continue to shape the future...


...thanks to you!


Our campus partners


Our board

21 Strategic Plan 2019-2023


Our purpose We want all children to have the opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilled life

Our values Support the individual To achieve their best and develop their skills. Perseverance Pursue answers and embrace challenges with tenacity and resilience. Generosity of spirit Delight in the success of others. Creativity and innovation Curious, imaginative and open to discover new knowledge. Scientific integrity Honest and open in our work and how we deal with others. Relationships and collaboration With partners, community, patients, families and teams – everyone has a part to play. Courage To be honest and seek the truth no matter what. To be leaders and first adopters, to think outside the box.

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“We're working to ensure every child can reach their full potential.” Dr Karli Treyvaud, Senior Research Officer, Clinical Sciences Strategic Plan 2019-2023

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World-class child health research In the last five years, the Institute has reached new heights. MCRI was ranked one of the top three child health research institutes globally*. In 2018 we achieved a record number of research publications. Our success rate for National Health and Medical Research Council grants was over 31 per cent - the national average was less than 20 per cent. *as per research publication citation impact ranking 2018, “Bibliometric and Benchmarking Report - Thomson Reuters”

“MCRI is a world-leading research institute whose research has a global impact on children.” Prof Yves d’Udekem, Cardiothoracic surgeon and Team leader, Clinical Sciences


Creating possible A snapshot of some of our world-leading research that is changing the lives of children around the globe. Growing mini-kidneys from stem cells These organoids will permit us to model disease and develop new, targeted therapies.

Treating peanut allergies We’ve developed a potentially life-saving treatment for peanut allergies. Our trial showed more than four in five kids with peanut allergy could tolerate peanuts following our treatment.

Fighting infectious diseases Our researchers have successfully trialled a treatment to eliminate scabies, a tropical disease linked to heart and kidney problems.

Rare disease diagnosis MCRI leads the Acute Care Genomics study which provides rapid genomic testing for children in intensive care units across Australia, and delivers answers in less than three days.

Rotavirus discovery Our teams not only discovered rotavirus four decades ago, they are also developing a rotavirus vaccine to protect millions of babies worldwide.

Leading genomics research The institute is spearheading the case to incorporate DNA sequencing into healthcare in Australia. MCRI leads the Australian Genomics Health Alliance and genomics initiatives nationally and globally.

Blood stem cell research Our researchers are using stem cells to revolutionise treatment for blood cancers like leukaemia.

Solving the allergy mystery By 12 months of age, one in every 10 Victorian babies develops a food allergy. Our research has uncovered a role for diet, vitamin D and bacteria exposure in allergies, pointing the way to allergy prevention.

Heart disease Our researchers are creating beating heart cells from stem cells to treat congenital heart disease.

Keeping kids out of hospital Our research has shown that at-home intravenous antibiotics are as effective and safe as hospital treatment, and better for quality of life.

Digital technology Our research is translated quickly into community impact via the mobile apps HeadCheck and AllergyPal to support families handling concussion and allergies. Strategic Plan 2019-2023


Towards Precision Child Health, 2019-2023 The health landscape is quickly evolving, as rapid technological developments change the way we do research and the way that healthcare is delivered. However, rapidly aging populations and booming healthcare costs are presenting an enormous burden for healthcare systems worldwide. The best way forward is not just to learn how to cure diseases but to prevent people getting sick in the first place. Prevention is better than cure.


We have made extraordinary progress. However, chronic problems continue to affect too many of our children - 1 in 10 develop food allergies; 1 in 5 children in disadvantaged communities experience significant delays in their brain development resulting in lifelong learning disabilities; 1 in 4 children and adolescents are diagnosed with a mental health issue such as depression and anxiety; and 1 in 3 are overweight or obese.

These problems are complex - no one approach necessarily works for every individual, nor does one treatment fix the disorder. Precision Child Health is the solution.

Tailored care to keep children healthy.

Precision Child Health aims to prevent or delay diseases in healthy children. When children do get sick, Precision Child Health will offer care that is precisely tailored for that child. Tackling these complex issues requires experts from a range of disciplines, armed with genetic, behavioural, environmental and clinical information to better understand the various factors underpinning the disorder in each individual. We have the required breadth and depth of expertise, and a wealth of data to find the answers. What is missing is the ability to connect these vast, but currently separate datasets. We are embarking on an ambitious Precision Child Health program to connect the wealth of research and clinical information.

Strategic Plan 2019-2023


Leading with our strengths... We are international leaders in four strategic research areas and will continue to build on these over the next five years:

Studying genes is in MCRI’s DNA. Genomics maps the whole genome (all of a person’s genes) and studies the associations between subtle changes, diseases and biological traits.


MCRI’s globally competitive genomics research is built on a mix of laboratory, clinical and public health research, epidemiology and genetic screening. Combined with the clinical and laboratory expertise of Victorian Clinical Genetics Services, our research is translated into clinical practice, with immediate benefits to patients and families.

Stem cells have immense potential to repair dysfunctional organs. Our researchers are using them to replace defective blood cells and to engineer brand-new organs in a dish - kidney, heart, cartilage, neurons and muscles; work that can ultimately improve and save thousands of lives. Stem cell medicine

MCRI has become a global leader in stem cell research and is making great strides in using these potential-packed cells to study disease mechanism and develop targeted therapies.

Our Lifecourse initiatives build on our strength in population health. They aim to collect longitudinal data from birth to study the origins of common diseases. Lifecourse population studies

With the support of our partners the Paul Ramsay Foundation and the Victorian State Government, MCRI has embarked on GenV. The project will follow babies born in Victoria in 2021 and 2022 to create a uniquely powerful collection of linked data to help answer research questions to address our looming population-wide epidemics of obesity, mental illness, allergy and more.

MCRI’s commitment to all children having the opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilled life goes beyond Australia’s borders. We lead research in over 20 countries and collaborate with many more. Global health

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Leveraging our research in population health and infection and immunity, we are building a safer future for all children, improving vaccines and creating new guidelines for care.

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...we will find the answers Our flagship research programs maximise the collaborative opportunities across MCRI and the Melbourne Children’s Campus to increase the translation of clinical research into practice, transforming child and adolescent health.

Rare Disease


Improve detection, diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases


Eradicate food allergy

Critical Care


Improve long-term outcomes for high-risk infants

Read more about our flagships on our website:


Transform our treatment of autism, social impairment and intellectual disability

Develop new therapies for kidney disease


Reduce misuse of antibiotics and minimise drug resistance and side effects


Use regenerative medicine to repair damaged heart tissue

Complex Disease


Develop new models of care for paediatric cancer

Use life-long data to predict and prevent complex disease

Mental Health

Adolescent Health

Improve the health of future generations

Aboriginal Health

Work with Aboriginal communities to improve the lives of their children

Prevent and treat mental illness through a whole-of-system approach

Strategic Plan 2019-2023


United by a common purpose

At Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, we are united by a common purpose: that all children have the opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilled life. Our research spans five research themes: Genetics, Cell Biology, Clinical Sciences, Infection and Immunity, and Population Health, with a support team of scientific and operational enablers.

Most importantly, our researchers are working with the patients, families and communities they serve. This ensures our discoveries are transformed into better health outcomes for all families; in Australia and around the world.

Genetics Our genetic research is vital to achieve earlier diagnosis and deliver targeted treatment for genetic disorders, infectious diseases and noncommunicable diseases.


Cell Biology Our researchers want to understand how cells work, and how disease alters those functions. This is crucial to making discoveries that help children with developmental disorders, cancer and congenital diseases.

Clinical Sciences Our researchers work to improve care for babies, children and adolescents with serious acute and chronic illness. The ultimate aim is to save lives and create better outcomes for our most vulnerable.

Infection and Immunity We’re protecting children against preventable diseases such as allergies, common infections and immune conditions both locally and internationally, with a focus on vaccine development.

Population Health We aim to understand the social, environmental and biological factors influencing child health to target modern epidemics of obesity, allergy, diabetes and mental illness.

Strategic Plan 2019-2023


Strategic priorities Our actions

Strategic priorities

1. Research excellence By 2023, we will be international leaders in research areas that provide children with a healthy start to life and successful journey to adulthood

• Build on our areas of strength in genomics, stem cells, global health and population health to translate our research findings into tangible benefits for child health and the healthcare system • Maximise the excellent relationships with our campus partners, The Royal Children’s Hospital, The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation, and the University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics • Promote new approaches to child health by playing an active role in national and international collaborations tackling the big issues facing child health

Professor Ruth Bishop AC and Professor Graham Barnes Led the team that discovered rotavirus in 1973 16 14

Our expected outcomes

• Embrace new research technologies to remain at the cutting edge

• Strong leadership and involvement in national and international initiatives around our research areas • Publications in top-tier scientific journals • Increasing impact of our findings as measured by citation impact, translation into practice and improved health outcomes • At or above national average for NHMRC grants and fellowships • Establishing new research infrastructure to ensure our work is at the cutting edge

2. Impact

3. People

4. Sustainability

Deliver impact that has a direct effect on child health and healthcare

Establish an environment that fosters and develops brilliant minds to enable the growth of our research stars

Ensure long-term sustainability: setting up our future

• Focus on solving child health problems through prevention and early intervention

• Attract, retain and develop the best researchers at all levels: work with the University of Melbourne to recruit the brightest students; promote and facilitate clinician researchers in partnership with The Royal Children’s Hospital

• Translate our research into guidelines and clinical practice • Work with industry partners to help develop new, sustainable products and services • Work with partners in government to guide productive healthcare spending • Work with the community to inform our research and to solve their biggest health challenges

• Provide mentoring and training to support the development of young research stars • Be inclusive and support our staff to enable our people to perform at their best and create impact

• Enable maximum success in securing competitive research funding • Diversify the income base through philanthropy, commercialisation, and non-NHMRC funding • Ensure that operating costs are tightly controlled and we have the operational skills and expertise to support research activities • Develop national and international collaborative initiatives to help diversify our funding stream

• Informing policy nationally and internationally

• Attracting new star researchers in our areas of strength

• Sound and skilled use of funds: operating budget break-even

• Improving clinical practice

• Increasing number of students, talented post-doctoral researchers with fellowships and clinician scientists

• Diversifying funding sources to avoid over-reliance on any one stream of income

• Developing new products and services • Cost savings through efficiency in research and operations

• A skilled operational team

• Foster an environment that reflects our values and empowers our people to be their best

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How we will have impact We aim to deliver Precision Child Health to improve children’s lives in Australia and beyond.

1. Breakthrough discoveries

Creating knowledge that benefits generations to come

2. Changing lives

Translating research into new treatments, services and policy that improves child health

3. Transforming healthcare

Improving effectiveness in care and cost throughout the healthcare system

4. Leading through example

Leading in research, healthcare and in the community

5. Working in partnership

Collaborating to solve the greatest challenges in child health

Establishing Precision Child Health in Australia

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“The vaccines that we’re developing here at MCRI are saving millions of children’s lives around the globe” Prof Andrew Steer, Theme Director, Infection and Immunity

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Together we will continue to shape the future...

450+ students

1600+ staff

2200+ donors


...thanks to you!

Every donor, company, individual and corporate fundraiser, government body and collaborator who supports and contributes to our work ensures MCRI thrives, and finds the cures and solutions for child health issues. Every donation, no matter the size, has the potential to save a child’s life. For that we say THANK YOU! To add your support, visit

Strategic StrategicPlan Plan2019-2023 2019-2023

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Our campus partners

We are at the heart of Melbourne Children’s, a mighty alliance with our partners The Royal Children’s Hospital, The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation and the University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics. Together, we are a powerhouse of interwoven research, education and clinical care. Our focus on improving patient outcomes is central to our strategic priorities and our move to Precision Child Health. Our offices are located on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land across Australia and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Photo courtesy John Gollings 22 20

Our board MCRI is supported and guided by an independent Board of Directors.

Suzi Carp Chair

Simon Rothery Deputy Chair

Prof Kathryn North AC Director

Steven Casper

John Stanway

Dr Brandon Carp

Paul Rayner

Hon Rob Knowles AO

Sarah Murdoch

Prof Shitij Kapur

Kate Mohr

Patrick Houlihan

Dominic Stevens Strategic Plan 2019-2023


Our manifesto We believe that for every question there’s an answer. For every child’s illness there must be a cure. For every obstacle there must be a way around. What inspires us is asking the big questions – Why is it so? Why does it happen? How can we fix it? What excites us is tackling the big issues affecting children’s health. Children are at our heart, in our blood, and in our bones. We believe every child deserves a healthy start to life. And a happy and prosperous community needs healthy children. We believe in the power of curiosity, cleverness and cutting-edge research. We are excited by discovery and new knowledge to make a difference. The future is purchased by the present, we can shape the future, We can change the world. So every child can have a childhood. So every child can grow to reach their full potential. Children are at the heart of everything we do.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute 50 Flemington Rd, Parkville Victoria, 3052 Australia ABN 21 006 566 972

+61 1300 766 439 +61 3 8341 6200

Profile for Murdoch Children's

Strategic Plan 2019-2023  

Towards Precision Child Health

Strategic Plan 2019-2023  

Towards Precision Child Health