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World-leading scientist appointed QIMR Berghofer’s next Director and CEO

Renowned immunologist, Professor Fabienne Mackay, has been appointed the eighth Director and CEO of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

She replaces Professor Frank Gannon, who retired earlier this month after nine years at the helm of the Institute.

Professor Mackay will take up the role in May 2020. QIMR Berghofer’s Deputy Director, Professor David Whiteman AM, is acting as Director and CEO until then.

Professor Mackay is currently the head of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Melbourne, a role she has held since September 2015. Prior to joining the University of Melbourne, she was the Chair of the Department of Immunology at Monash University in Melbourne.

Queensland’s Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, Steven Miles, said Professor Mackay’s appointment would help ensure the state remained at the forefront of medical research.

“I am delighted to announce Professor Mackay’s appointment,” Mr Miles said.

“It is a major coup for QIMR Berghofer and for Queensland.

“QIMR Berghofer is one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes, so it is fitting that an internationally recognised scientist of Professor Mackay’s stature be appointed the Institute’s next Director and CEO.”

The Chair of the QIMR Berghofer Council, Professor Arun Sharma, said Professor Mackay was appointed after an international search.

“Professor Mackay is widely respected for both her research achievements and for her successful leadership,” Professor Sharma said.

“Her discoveries have led to clinical trials of new treatments, including the successful development of a monoclonal antibody for the autoimmune disease lupus.

“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 Mackay said she was looking forward to taking on the role.

“I am honoured to have been appointed as the next Director and CEO of the prestigious QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute,” Professor Mackay said.

“I look forward to building on the remarkable legacies of the previous Directors by working with the outstanding research teams at the Institute to deliver impactful medical discoveries that will improve the lives of Queenslanders, Australians and the global population.”

Professor Mackay’s research has focused on the immune protein, B cell-activating factor, or BAFF, and its role in autoimmune conditions, including lupus.

She obtained her PhD from the Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France. Earlier in her career, Professor Mackay held roles at US biotech company Biogen ldec Inc and the Garvan Institute in Sydney.

She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and has received a number of prestigious national and international awards, including the National Health and Medical Research Council’s award for Best Research Project.

Professor Sharma has thanked Professor Whiteman for acting in the role of Director and CEO in the interim.

“I would like to sincerely thank Professor Whiteman for providing leadership and stability during this transition period,” he said.

“I also again thank the former Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon, for his years of service to the Institute. He leaves behind an excellent legacy on which Professor Mackay will build.”