Children experience disease differently to adults and the treatments that are needed for children are different too. That's why our research is crucial, so we can find the best way to prevent disease and treat children to give them the healthiest possible start to life.
Our researchers work across three areas: in the lab to investigate why disease occurs, clinical research working beside doctors and nurses to influence diagnosis and treatment and broad community studies to understand how disease impacts children in the wider community.
MCRI specialises in discoveries that transform child health.
Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) is the largest child health research institute in Australia and one of the top five worldwide. Our team of more than 1900 talented researchers is dedicated to making discoveries to prevent and treat childhood conditions. Many of our researchers are also clinicians at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, where the Institute is based. Their research is informed by the problems facing their patients but it also means when a discovery is made, this is quickly transformed into practical treatments for children in the hospital.
The Institute marked its 30th anniversary in 2016. Our story began in 1986 when paediatrician Professor David Danks established the original Murdoch Institute with the unparalleled generosity and support of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.
MCRI research improves the lives of millions of kids each year. We research health conditions including diabetes, allergies, asthma, premature birth and mental health problems, which are on the rise in our children, and conditions including cancer and genetic disorders that remain unsolved.
We study the health of communities to understand what factors influence child health at the population level and research common infections and immune conditions both locally and globally.
Our work goes beyond research. We are one of the only research institutes in Australia to offer genetic testing to find answers for families of children with previously undiagnosed conditions, using the latest genetic sequencing technology. We also conduct national newborn screening and allow children to access personalised treatments for conditions like cancer.
MCRI researchers work across five key areas:
Infection and Immunity – Allergies, infections and immune conditions are under the microscope at MCRI with a major focus on developing new vaccines and testing these to ensure they are safe to give to children. Our researchers discovered the diarrhoeal disease rotavirus in 1973 and have recently developed a new immunisation for newborns which is in the final stages of clinical trials.
Cell biology – Cell biology researchers work with stem cells and cutting-edge technology to understand how disease alters healthy cells. They’re developing new treatments for children with cancer, congenital diseases and developmental disorders. Professor Melissa Little and her team have grown mini-kidneys in the lab which will be invaluable to the study of kidney disease and to develop and test new treatments.
Clinical sciences – Our researchers are working to improve the diagnosis and treatment practices for sick babies, children and adolescents with acute and chronic illnesses. Dr Anushi Rajapaksa has developed a vaccine that can be inhaled instead of injected.
Genetics – Our scientists study DNA to understand the genetic basis of diseases including ataxia, thalassemia, mitochondrial and chromosome disorders. We’ve designed a computer system to help doctors around the world diagnose genetic syndromes.
Population Health – Our diverse team of researchers study the health of communities and translate this knowledge into prevention, intervention and treatment – for example we’re world leaders in unravelling the reasons behind Australia’s high allergy rates. Our research findings have changed recommendations around infant feeding.