Celebrating 50 years of The Ritchie Centre

More than 100 scientists attended the 2019 Ritchie Centre Colloquium and Public Forum, where leading researchers and invited speakers presented ground-breaking research and celebrated The Ritchie Centre’s 50-year history.

50 years of The Ritchie Centre

The Ritchie Centre was first formed as a collaborative research group devoted to early human development, within the Department of Physiology at Melbourne University in 1969, under the auspices of John Maloney, Blair Ritchie (TRC namesake), Michael Adamson and Michael Pain.

Professor Stuart Hooper and Mick Adamson

During the opening lecture, Prof John Moloney provided a unique insight into the early beginnings of The Ritchie Centre and highlighted the importance of bringing scientists into medical research.

Each Centre theme then presented their latest research spanning from stem cell biology and its applications in health care through to fetal and neonatal health, child health and women’s health.

Public Forum | A brighter future for cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a physical disability that affects movement and posture, caused by damage to the developing brain before, during or soon after birth.

The Public Forum showcased the work that The Ritchie Centre researchers are doing to unravel the causes of cerebral palsy, finding new ways to prevent it, and working with families to help children maximise their potential. The forum was facilitated by Dr Sally Cockburn aka ‘Dr Feelgood’ who engaged the audience with not only her delightful humour but experience and knowledge as a medical practitioner.

Michael Shearman, the father of a son with CP and the founder and co-director of ‘Max on a Mission’, shared his experiences of advocating for an intensive physical therapy program for children with CP.

A/Prof Tim Moss from TRC has worked with Michael and his wife Claire, to build a research study to measure the results of the program which has shown amazing improvements in gross motor function in children with CP. The aim now is to run a larger research study to demonstrate the success of the program, and for ongoing therapy to be supported by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Honouring a prestigious career

Professor Graham Jenkin

Thursday afternoon featured a Festschrift to honour the outstanding career of Professor Graham Jenkin who for over 40 years has been both an innovative and enthusiastic scientist, but most importantly a supportive and highly valued mentor for many a budding young scientist.

Current and former colleagues and students spoke on the many achievements and accolades Prof Jenkin accrued over his illustrious career. The audience was also entertained with amusing anecdotes from Graham’s overseas conference shenanigans.

After beginning his career with a BSc (Hons) in Animal Science at Nottingham University, Prof Jenkin’s career has spanned immunology, stem cell research and reproductive biology.

Research undertaken by Prof Jenkin has led to important observations on ovarian function, early embryonic development and restoring fertility in women. He has always maintained a major research interest in the maintenance of fetal and neonatal wellbeing. His early research led to the development of novel treatments for newborn babies with respiratory distress syndrome. He also pioneered research into combined treatments to stop premature labour.

Prof Jenkin’s most recent achievement has been to establish and develop the Cell Therapy and Regenerative Medicine theme of The Ritchie Centre and the Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine Platform within the Translational Research Facility.

“His vision for the Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine Platform is to support and accelerate the clinical translation of cell therapies in Australia through affordable and versatile facilities and key cell therapy capabilities” commented Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Professor Euan Wallace.

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