Hunter Medical Research Institute

Ms JODIE HARRISON (Charlestown) [5.43 p.m.]: Tonight I bring to the attention of the House the work of the Hunter Medical Research Institute [HMRI].

Ms Jodi McKay: I've been there.

Ms JODIE HARRISON: Yes, and I am pleased the member for Strathfield is in the House for this private members' statement. The HMRI is an internationally-recognised health and medical research institute based in the Hunter Region. It is a wonderful medical research facility well supported and used by my constituents in Charlestown. The original dream for a medical research facility in the Hunter goes back to 1990 when the Hunter Medical Research Co-operative was launched over dinner at Maitland Town Hall. The objectives were simple: to improve the health of the Hunter community through support of medical research at the University of Newcastle's Faculty of Medicine; to promote and finance medical research in the Hunter by obtaining funds from a range of sources and allocating them to medical research projects; and to raise awareness about medical research and the role of the business and general community in fostering its progress.

The inaugural executive director of the HMRI, Professor John Rostas, had a clear and unequivocal vision for what HMRI was capable of achieving and his vision led to the consolidation of research activity in the Hunter at HMRI. Now throughout Newcastle and the Hunter, more than 1,400 clinical and biomedical researchers and support staff are employed across seven HMRI research programs, striving to prevent, cure and treat a diverse range of serious illnesses by translating research findings made in the laboratory and through advanced imaging techniques, into real health treatments and preventative strategies for the community. Internationally recognised research outcomes are being achieved in asthma and airway diseases, cancer, diabetes, mental health, nutrition, pregnancy and reproduction, stroke and more. Collaborations are being conducted with institutes from all across the world.

Yesterday the HMRI celebrated its latest success with the launch of the CLARITY light-sheet microscope. The CLARITY light-sheet microscope is the creation of three young biologists from the University of Newcastle who just happened upon—and saw a need to harness—a revolutionary new technique in three-dimensional laser microscopy. Despite having no optical engineering experience, colleagues Dr Jamie Flynn, Antony Martin and Will Palmer hand-built a state-of-the-art laser microscope at HMRI that delivers clear, three-dimensional cellular images with unparalleled speed and precision. Commercial versions of similar microscopes cost up to $1 million, but the three colleagues assembled their unique device for just $70,000 using plans, parts and advice sourced from the internet and collaborators around the world.

The CLARITY light-sheet was built as a communal resource for all HMRI-aligned researchers. It will potentially revolutionise research across myriad of diseases, with studies for cancer, asthma, stroke, gastroenterology and reproduction already planned. Traditional microscopes examine a thin veneer that has been sliced off the original sample. But the CLARITY light-sheet provides the same microscopic level of detail across the whole three-dimensional sample. Being biologists, Flynn, Martin and Palmer had ample knowledge in using microscopes but, as I mentioned, no optical engineering experience. They learnt on the job—altering the light paths in the microscope numerous times before settling on the final configuration. They sourced parts from all over the world, including optical components and a table from the United States, a camera from Japan and bespoke-built parts from South Africa.

This application of new technology is momentous. It has the potential to improve health outcomes for people in Charlestown and across the community who are battling diseases we do not yet understand. It will help researchers develop treatments and hopefully cures for diseases affecting thousands of Australians. I congratulate everyone at HMRI—Jamie Flynn, Antony Martin and Will Palmer, HMRI Life Governor, Jennie Thomas, AM, and the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation on their innovation, passion, hard work and support for medical research that will improve the health outcomes of my constituents in Charlestown, across the Hunter, Australia and in fact the world.