From the Director

With the year drawing to a close and the festive season almost upon us, I’m sure everyone is looking forward to a well-deserved break and welcoming in the New Year.

Reflecting upon the year, it has been extraordinary with many challenges from COVID-19. We were very fortunate to officially open our Jacka Foundation Conference Centre in early March, celebrating and marking also International Women’s Day and influential women in natural therapies in Australia. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we continued to adapt and advance our research initiatives, collaborations and partnerships.

NICM HRI continued its success in securing funding support from national competitive grants, governments, industry, and philanthropic donations. One highlight is Associate Professor Genevieve Steiner who was awarded an important NHMRC Investigator Grant ($1.56 M) to further develop innovative strategies and approaches towards dementia prevention.

Our researchers published over 160 papers throughout the year, with many publishing in Q1 peer-reviewed journals (top 25% of journals in a given field), and generating international attention from researchers and media, as you will read of some in this issue. The quality and impact of our research are also evidenced by NICM HRI identified as Australia’s top research institution in the field of Alternative and Traditional Medicine in The Australian’s Annual Research Special Report.

We continued to build research infrastructure to support our research. We have recently recommenced our planning process for new laboratories at the lower ground floor incorporating a GMP manufacturing facility, R&D laboratory, and additional PC2 pharmacology space. The construction will commence in April 2021 with an anticipated completion day of August 2021. We were also pleased to be one of the first research institutes in Australia to be granted a medicinal cannabis manufacturing licence by the Federal Government’s Office of Drug Control.

Internationally, we continue to develop our research partnership with All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), Indian Ministry of AYUSH. Recently, we successfully co-hosted an international webinar with AIIA to promote scientific research in yoga and Ayurveda for mental wellness.  Additionally, we have become the first Asia-Pacific regional member of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health, comprised of 75 of the most prestigious universities and health systems in North America. We look forward to sharing research, exchanging information and new ideas in the near future and attending their virtual symposium in April, which you will read further about in this issue.

I am also thrilled to report that Professor Alan Bensoussan will now be working part-time as Professor of Integrative Medicine. He will lead engagement activities of the Institute with national and international industry, government and donor relations. We look forward to Professor Bensoussan’s ongoing and invaluable contributions.

In signing off, I wish to thank our donors, industry partners, Advisory Board and Research Committee, our academic and professional staff, and HDR students for your superb efforts and support throughout this challenging year, for which I am immensely proud and grateful.

NICM HRI offices will close for the holiday break from Thursday 17 December and will re-open on Monday 4 January.

On behalf of the NICM HRI team, our very best wishes to you and your families for a healthy, safe and restful holiday break.

Professor Dennis Chang

16 December 2020