Appointment of Professor Trevor Kilpatrick
The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health (The Florey) and the University of Melbourne are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Trevor Kilpatrick to the respective roles of interim Director at The Florey and Interim Head of the Florey Department of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the University of Melbourne.
This follows the formal announcement on 1 December 2021 that Professor Steven Petrou would be stepping down as Florey’s Director to extend his existing appointment of Chief Scientific Officer at a US biopharmaceutical company from 19 April 2022. In making the decision to appoint an interim Director in advance of recruiting a new permanent Director, the Board carefully considered the likely timeframe required to complete a global search, as well as the opportunity to position the Institute strategically to build upon the significant momentum in brain-related research and healthcare in Australia and overseas.
Following an internal Expression of Interest process, a working group comprising four members of the Florey Board and two nominated Professors from the University of Melbourne recommended Professor Kilpatrick as the interim Director. The interim appointment was subsequently approved by the Florey Board and the University of Melbourne.
Florey Chair Mr Mark Jones AM and Professor Jane Gunn, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences from the University of Melbourne indicated that both organisations fully support the appointment of Professor Kilpatrick as interim Director and re-affirmed the very close ongoing working relationship of The Florey and the University of Melbourne.
In addition to this very important appointment, the Board, together with Professor Kilpatrick in his capacity as Director, has engaged a team to conduct a Strategic Review of the Florey over the next three months that will report directly to the Board, via a ‘Future Florey Committee’ of the Board. The ‘Future Florey Strategic Review’, which will focus on the next phase of growth and excellence at The Florey, will be led by Professor Mike McGuckin from the University of Melbourne and will be supported by specialist external consultants from ‘ByMany’.
Professor Kilpatrick graduated with a medical degree from the University of Melbourne in 1982 and specialised in neurology. He obtained a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne in 1993. Appointments at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla, USA) and Institute of Neurology (UCL, London, UK) followed. He returned to Melbourne as the Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellow at the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research and as the Head of the Melbourne Multiple Sclerosis Research Unit at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. In 2003, he was appointed as Professor of Neurology at the University of Melbourne and held positions as Director of the Centre for Neuroscience and of the Melbourne Neuroscience Institute at the University between 2004 and 2018. In 2018 he was appointed as the Clinical Director of The Florey.
Professor Kilpatrick’s research interests include the neurobiology of MS, neural precursor cell biology, the study of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to MS and the translation of basic research discoveries to the clinic. Highlights of this scientific career include the identification of neural stem cells and the discovery of key neurobiological response to neuro-inflammation. His discoveries have provided a strong foundation for translation, clinical trial work and commercial engagement, and his commercial experience extends to being a co-founder and director of Mx3 Diagnostics, which is a marketing point of activity diagnostic devices.
Professor Kilpatrick commenced in the role of interim Director on 21 March 2022, and the Board is delighted that Professor Petrou has committed to continue in part-time employment at the Florey for one day a week from 19 April 2022 in order to maintain his laboratory and manage existing research activity and commercial agreements. In the meantime, Professor Kilpatrick will work alongside Professor Petrou to ensure a seamless handover. Florey Chair Mr Mark Jones AM said:
“On behalf of the Board, I would like extend our gratitude for Steve’s leadership over the past three and half years and for the role he has played in positioning the Florey for the future.”
As detailed previously, Professor Petrou will move into the private sector with Praxis Precision Medicines Inc., a US clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company translating genetic insights into new therapies. As Florey Director since July 2018, Professor Petrou has had a key focus on developing and deploying a new Institute strategy, a restructure of the academic body, and creating a funding model to more deeply embed commercialisation to build future resilience in response to ongoing changes in Government funding policies. A key pillar of the new strategic vision was to strengthen the focus on people where he led the introduction of a range of workplace improvement initiatives and focussed on the wellbeing of staff and students as he navigated the Institute through the COVID pandemic to date. Prof Petrou’s research in the area of neurobiology of disease and precision medicine in developmental and epileptic encephalopathies has not only resulted in a number of key publications, but has triggered significant commercial interest, resulting in a highly funded commercial collaboration with the goal of transforming the lives of patients with neurogenetic disorders and with the potential of providing long term benefits to The Florey.
The Florey is the largest brain research centre in the southern hemisphere and one of the largest independent medical research institutes in Australia. It employs 600+ staff, scientists, and students across four sites.