Our History

The Kids Research Institute was officially launched in 2009 as the dedicated translational research precinct for The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. This world-leading research facility is providing hope for future generations through the development of advanced care and cure options for patients on a global scale.

Seeing the advanced research work being done by our researchers in modern and high-tech facilities, it’s easy to forget that the Hospital’s research history extends back many decades. Some of the world’s most significant research discoveries have originated at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, changing the face of healthcare on a national and international scale.

In the Beginning

Back in 1880, the Sydney Hospital for Sick Children was opened in an old school building in the Sydney suburb of Glebe. Resources were scarce, with the Hospital treating just 55 patients in the first year. The Hospital was moved to Camperdown in 1906 and became the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children.

The Hospital has had a strong research culture since the earliest years at Glebe and Camperdown. Research was initially housed in a cottage in the grounds of the Hospital, with only a small number of staff involved. Over time, doctors began developing their own clinical research to develop better options for treatment for their patients.

The significant discovery of the impact of rubella on the developing foetus in 1942 by Dr Norman Gregg at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children confirmed the need for a stronger and more consolidated approach to research.

The Breakthrough Period

Sir Lorimer Dods, one of the key figures in the Hospital’s history, developed an ambitious plan to establish a research unit within the Hospital in the 1950s. He then took the matter to the Board of Management of the Hospital. They found a number of generous supporters and the Children’s Medical Research Foundation was founded in 1958.

Australia’s first telethon on Channel 7 was held soon after, raising £79000 towards the Hospital’s research efforts. Fundraising campaigns continued, allowing the Foundation to operate solely from donations for many years.

The Children’s Medical Research Foundation was renamed Children’s Medical Research Institute and separated from the Hospital in 1985. It is now housed in a facility adjacent to the Kids Research Institute, with significant collaborative research being undertaken.

This separation allowed new sub-specialty research units to emerge in the Hospital. The Hospital introduced the Division of Research in 1998, with research in many specialty areas, such as cancer, neurosciences and infectious diseases, recognised on an international scale.

Here and Now

Approaching the new millennium, the lack of dedicated and advanced research facilities become a huge barrier for the growth and expansion of the Hospital’s research arm.

Fortunately, an extremely generous gift of $10 million from Kerry Packer in 2000, with matching funds from the federal and state government and support from other generous donors, allowed the construction of a new research building in 2005.

The Kids Research Institute was officially launched in 2009, consolidating the efforts of over 250 staff and research students involved in basic, clinical and population health research. This launch brought together researchers from many different streams to work hand in hand to solve the most complex medical problems of our lifetime.

Today, research is one of key mechanism that enables The Children’s Hospital at Westmead to provide the highest possible standards in care and treatment to sick children and their families.

Achievement and milestones

1880 The Sydney Hospital for Sick Children established in an old school building in the Sydney suburb of Glebe
1893 Sir Charles Clubbe developed treatments for intussusception
1907 The Hospital moved to Camperdown and became the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children
1941 Sir Norman Gregg identified rubella as a source of congenital deformities
1945 The Hospital records the first use of penicillin on a civilian – it was previously only used in the US Military
1950s-1960s The Hospital became a major clinical school of paediatrics, marking the beginning of the recognition of paediatrics as a specialty
1958 The Children’s Medical Research Foundation established, funded solely by public donations
1963 Douglas Reye diagnoses Reye Syndrome
1969 First use of profound Hypothermia for paediatric open heart surgery
1970s The Hospital pioneered the use of home blood glucose measurement, replacing the urine testing method for childhood diabetes
1977 The Adolescent Medicine Unit established, the first such unit in any Australian hospital
1979 Variation of Menke’s disease first described
1981 Hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy of neuronal type with onset in early childhood first described
1983 World first kidney transplant carried out on the smallest child
1984 First completed survey of blood pressure reading in normal children
1985 Clyclosporin used alone in the treatment of children with kidney transplantation was uniformly associated with accelerated growth observed
1986 First cut-down adult sized lived used in paediatric transplant
1987 World first publicly-funded mass screening of newborn babies
1990 Dual injection device developed to minimise pain for diabetic children
  First combined liver and kidney transplantation in a child
1991 Artificial surfactant used on premature newborns for the first time in Australia
1992 First brain stem tumour removal
1995 The Hospital moved to its new purpose built premises at Westmead, becoming The Children’s Hospital at Westmead
1996 First Research Report published
1998 Division of Research established
2000 Generous donation of $10 million from Kerry Packer and support from other donors allowed construction of the Kerry Packer Building to commence
2001 Westmead Research Hub created to enable the Hospital and the other three major research bodies on the Westmead campus to work together and share equipment and ideas
2008 World first spontaneous acceptance of a donor immune system in a liver transplant patient
2009 Kids Research Institute officially launched as the dedicated translational research precinct of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead
2010 14 NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) Project Grants in 2010 received, with more than $12 million being allocated to fund a range of important research initiatives