Immunologist Professor Fabienne Mackay, whose research interests include lupus and CLL, has been appointed the eighth Director and CEO of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.
Currently head of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Professor Mackay will move to Brisbane for a mid-May start.
Professor Mackay told the limbic it was an honour and an exciting opportunity to lead a research institute that was so highly regarded across the nation and internationally.
She was particularly enthusiastic about the Institute’s breadth of expertise – from making early discoveries in the laboratory, to testing those discoveries in the clinic, to population studies, epidemiology and public health.
“That’s a very nice and very powerful pipeline. It means the expertise is there to take an early discovery all the way to the bedside.”
Professor Mackay said she brings to the position a strong background in biomedical research and the drive to see results.
“…I’ve also worked in industry. I’ve done a lot of research that I have translated into treatment especially in lupus,” she said.
“We don’t want to do research for research’s sake, which is very important, but making sure that what we discover actually gets to the patients.”
Professor Mackay is known for her work in discovering the role of BAFF/BLyS as a key factor driving lupus. The BAFF inhibitor belimumab was subsequently approved by the FDA in 2011 as the first new treatment for the disease in over 50 years.
She currently holds funding from the US for her lupus research and NHMRC funding for investigations into the immunity of patients with CLL so will definitely be moving a lab to Queensland.
“I have to be realistic but will certainly try to quarantine some time to run my own research,” she said.
However her priority will be taking care of the activities of the Institute and delivering for Queensland and Australia in terms of the Institute’s overall research outputs across cancer, chronic diseases, infectious diseases and mental health.
Professor Arun Sharma, chair of the QIMR Berghofer Council, said Professor Mackay was widely respected for both her research achievements and her successful leadership.
“Her outstanding track record in medical research, her expertise in management and her experience in the biotechnology sector and research commercialisation make her the ideal person to lead QIMR Berghofer through its next phase,” Professor Sharma said.
Professor Mackay obtained her PhD from the Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France and has previously worked at US biotech company Biogen and at the Garvan Institute in Sydney. She is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.