Microbiome Research Centre (MRC) Officially Opened

The Microbiome Research Centre (MRC) was officially opened on Friday 9 August by David Coleman MP, member for Banks and Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. Mr Coleman visited the MRC’s refurbished laboratories at the Research & Education Centre, part of St George Hospital in Kogarah.

The MRC, a UNSW Sydney facility dedicated to research in gut health, is supported by the St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation (SSMRF) and the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD).

The MRC will bring together scientists and clinicians on one campus to support research programs to examine the impact of gut bacteria on obesity, diabetes, foetal health, allergies and cancer. The facility will include a fully integrated bioinformatics unit and will conduct studies of the impact of the microbiome in pregnancy and early childhood.

The federal government kick started the MRC with a $4 million grant to the SSMRF in 2017. Over the past two years the MRC has received an additional $6.5 million from the federal and state government and $3 million from a private benefactor to support microbiome research.

MRC Director and UNSW’s Professor of Medicine at the St George and Sutherland Clinical School, Professor Emad El-Omar, said having a healthy gut is essential to living a healthy life and all Australians will benefit from the MRC’s research findings.

“Improved understanding of the microbiome is one of the most exciting developments in medicine over the past decade and has implications for many aspects of health and disease,” Professor El-Omar said.

“This is the only dedicated human microbiome research hub utilising state of the art science to answer important clinical questions. It is unique in being fully embedded in a large clinical campus,” Professor El-Omar said.

It is estimated that half the Australian population will complain of a digestive problem over the next twelve months with some imbalances in gut microbiota influencing overall health. Researchers at the MRC will investigate how disturbance in the microbiome occurs, how changes in gut health appear to play a role in health and diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, allergies and obesity.

The MRC will act as a hub of internationally competitive research bringing together multidisciplinary research groups from UNSW, the St George and Sutherland hospitals and affiliated clinical schools across Sydney. In addition, the MRC will establish collaborations with research groups and clinical campuses across NSW, other states and with international groups.

Chair of the SSMRF, Professor John Edmonds, said the MRC has continued its drive to tackle the health priorities of the Australian Government.

“It uses the National Health Priority Areas (NHPA) as the template for expanding the research collaborations and infrastructure, drawing together the best available talent and expertise locally, nationally and internationally,” Professor Edmonds said.

“Clearly the translational impact of this research will take several years to be fully realised but the agenda is very clear: to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians. Over the past year, the MRC has expanded its collaborative research agenda to include over 60 projects that cut across these NHPA.

“The SSMRF have been supporting important research for over a decade and it is pleasing to have this incredible support from the federal and state governments that has enabled the UNSW Microbiome Research Centre become a reality.”

Jacquie Stratford, CEO of the SSMRF said:

“The Foundation is very proud to have played such a major role in the establishment of the MRC and this is a clear demonstration of the power of working together with like-minded groups,” Ms Stratford said.