Doyens of diabetes research

From left: Prof Mark Cooper, Miri Meydan, Prof Paul Zimmet, Moshe Meydan, Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Julia Banks MP and Greg Hunt MP. Photo: Gerard Hynes.

MONASH University has officially launched a new Department of Diabetes — and the Jewish connection is strong.

While world-leading diabetes expert, Professor Mark Cooper heads the department, Professor Paul Zimmet is department principal advisor, and Moshe and Miri Meydan are one of two major donor families behind the project.

The Department of Diabetes is a partnership between Monash’s Central Clinical School in its Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, and Alfred Health. Opened last Wednesday by Federal Minister for Health and Sports, the Honourable Greg Hunt MP, the event attracted more than 200 attendees, including other state and federal government ministers.

“The group’s disease-focussed scientific and medical research complement the rich suite of translational research already undertaken in the Central Clinical School in a wide variety of clinical and academic departments,” said Cooper.

The department encompasses a team of 60 scientists who will work across ten critical areas of diabetes research, the new facility featuring one of the “best equipped laboratories in Australia, and potentially, the world, for diabetes complications,” Zimmet told The AJN.

“The vision and support of Monash University and local philanthropists have created an extraordinary and exciting opportunity to tackle diabetes…one of the largest epidemics in human history,” he added, while also honouring major donors, the Jreissati family.

While the Meydan’s are of Israeli background; the Jreissati family are of Lebanese. Zimmet recalled Hunt’s address at the launch, suggesting that perhaps this was the path forward for peace in the Middle East.

Hunt revealed that he spent a year on a kibbutz in Israel some years ago, speaking with the Meydans in fluent Hebrew.

Monash University has a history of excellence in the field of diabetes. In his opening address, Zimmet reflected upon the achievements of “the absolute pioneer”, Professor Joseph Bornstein, Monash’s first professor of biochemistry. Bornstein was also the first to make the worldwide discovery of the test that differentiates between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and, arguably, the leading cause of kidney failure and dialysis, adult blindness and limb amputations in the world.

Professor Margaret Gardner AO, Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor commented that diabetes is “one of the most significant health challenges facing Australia, with more than 280 people developing the disease every day.”

“By combining Monash’s world class research and teaching expertise with The Alfred’s exceptional contemporary clinical care, this new Department will be critical to leading new breakthroughs against a disease whose global cost exceeds A$860 billion annually.”