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Steve White

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Garvan Institute


 An enjoyable train ride from Macarthur or Leppington/Glenfield Stations on a nice sunny morning with the peak hour rush. Off at Central to catch a train to Kings Cross then a nice walk up Victoria Street To The Garvan Institute.  After 15 of us signing in we were introduced to Carol O’Carroll and Donna who became our guides for the morning.


Garvan began its existence as a small research department in St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst.  The Sisters of Charity founded the hospital in 1857. One of the primary donors was a Mrs Helen Mills who contributed 100,000 pounds, and her request was to name the institute in memory of her late father James Patrick Garvan {1843-1896}  He was a distinguished NSW parliamentarian and business leader. Construction of the original building began in 1962 and was officially opened in 1963 by the Duke of Norfolk. The 60-70’s saw an expansion of scientific staff at Garvan doing ground breaking research in different areas. In the 1980’s the Garvan became a Research Foundation with the aim to support, assist and promote scientific and medical research within the Institute. They raised $110,000 in its first year. It now raises around $20 million a year. In 1982 the National Health and Medical Research Council {NHMRC} awarded Garvan its first Program Grant for research into diabetes. In 1983 it became affiliated  with the University of NSW. That relationship continues today. The Garvan is an autonomous, non-profit research institute and since 1986 became only 1 in 5 centres of research excellence in Australia to receive NHMRC block funding.  The new building was designed by Architect Ken Wooley. It has 6 floors with the most amazing staircase in the form of a DNA Helix, 650 staff and the average age of the Researchers is 35 yrs. We visited the Library with the Atrium an oval glass dome on the roof.  This houses many printed bound volumes of books that would have been PHD’s research and also copies of journals in which the researchers had articles published.

 We visited the 6th floor to walk by the wet and dry labs where they are doing Diabetes Research {must have been morning tea we didn’t see many white coat workers} then down to the lower ground floor to the auditorium to listen to 2 Researchers. The first, Yvonne Selecki, spoke on Osteoporosis and told us that these studies include people from the Dubbo community. 2500 men and women over 60 have taken part in this research since 1989.  This is one of the longest running studies of its kind in the world. We also learnt that with less exposure to sun and dairy products we have a greater chance of having Osteoporosis. Also a high mortality rate if we fracture our hips after 50.  We had a question time and some very good questions were asked.

 Our second presenter was Dr Peter Schofield, a Therapeutic Antibody Researcher of the Centre for Targeted Therapy.  The equipment is world class for the research. Peter explained how they use different drugs {biological} with protein base to change other cells within the body as part of treating disease like different cancers.  All very interesting but very scientific.  Showed us a list of the top drug companies that were researching different type of drugs and the large costs involved with the research that they use and also how they use the mice for the early trials before humans and some never get that far at large costs to the drug companies.  There were not as many questions after this talk.

Then we had a lovely morning tea with great biscuits cooked by Joan the volunteer at the Institute and then to Tropicana’s for lunch and home on 2 trains for the few that couldn’t wait for the rest of the group.

Margaret Favelle

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