The Florey is born

The Florey is built upon the work of our founder, Professor Derek Denton AC, and his team of pioneering scientists including Professor Sir Roy Douglas ‘Pansy’ Wright, Professor John Coghlan AO, and Professor Marelyn Wintour-Coghlan AO.

Their discoveries into the role of salt and water balance in health and disease laid the foundations for the institute, attracting international attention, including from major philanthropists.

Having outgrown their old building, Professor Denton, along with friends and supporters Kenneth Myer and Ian Potter proposed to build a new research laboratory – a premise of their own to continue and expand their work.

Professor Derek Denton
Professor Derek Denton

In 1960 The Florey became a reality when, according to The Age on May 3:

‘Two leading Melbourne businessmen have guaranteed…that they will raise 150,000 pounds to assist medical research. The money will be used to build a research block. The deputy chairman and joint managing director of Myer Emporium Ltd., Mr Kenneth Myer, and the senior partner in a Melbourne stockbroking firm, Mr Ian Potter…will underwrite the sum of not less than 150,000 pounds.’

Frontier of neuroscience

The Florey’s original focus was on experimental physiology and medicine, following on from the work of Professor Denton.

It was in 1997 when then Director of The Florey, Professor Frederick Mendelsohn AO, recognised the need to broaden the focus of the institute to prioritise the brain. Considered an emerging field of enquiry that required urgent attention, neuroscience was providing answers to some of the most difficult medical problems of the day.

What proved to be a visionary evolution for The Florey enabled us to grow, attracting significant support and international acclaim. As research into the brain has gained considerable momentum, our scientific and technological advancements have ensured much of our work has been centre stage.

Today, we are world leaders in neuroimaging, discovery science, brain-body interactions and drug development. Our teams work on a range of neurological and psychiatric conditions including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, depression, schizophrenia and addiction.

What's in a name?

Originally named the Howard Florey Laboratories of Experimental Physiology and Medicine, The Florey was named in honour of one of Australia’s greatest scientists – Professor Sir Howard Walter (Baron) Florey OM.

Born in Adelaide in 1898, Professor Florey was a pharmacologist and pathologist. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Sir Ernst Boris Chain and Sir Alexander Fleming for his role in the making of penicillin. While Fleming first observed the antibiotic properties of the mould that makes penicillin, it was Chain and Florey who developed it into a useful treatment – conducting the first ever clinical trials of penicillin at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford in 1941.

The work of Professor Florey set the standard for the important work conducted at the institute which now bears his name – a legacy of discovery, collaboration, and research translation. His hope for the Institute was fulfilled, with many successful scientific endeavours occurring here.

Moving into the 21st Century, we shifted our scientific focus becoming the Florey Neuroscience Institutes. Not long after, The Florey merged with the Mental Health Research Institute, the National Stroke Research Institute, and the Brain Research Institute to go forth as The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. This amalgamation was the precursor to a decade of building a powerhouse of discovery and funding, securing our reputation on a global stage – not just as leaders in scientific thought but in brain research.

Today we are known as The Florey, a name that is reflective of our history but still inspires our future.