HMRI trio bestowed with AM honours

Jun 11 2019

Bob Kennedy, Glenn Turner and Geoff Isbister

Former Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) chairs Bob Kennedy and Glenn Turner, and toxicology researcher Professor Geoff Isbister, were named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the latest Queens Birthday Honours.

Mr Kennedy’s association dates to 2006 when he joined the HMRI Foundation and soon after became its Chair. He established a strategic committee that increased the Institute’s fund-raising target from $800,000 to $2 million per annum within three years, which was duly achieved.

A year later, Mr Kennedy was appointed Chair of the HMRI Board and began working with the incumbent Director, Professor Maree Gleeson OAM, towards two major goals – the construction of a new HMRI Building and the appointment of an international Director.

He was instrumental in securing federal and state funding for the building and helped to oversee its design and construction, while also recruiting respected Swedish researcher Professor Michael Nilsson as Director.

Along with his wife Terry, Mr Kennedy remains a generous donor for HMRI, presenting an annual grant for infertility research.

Currently holidaying in London, Mr Kennedy said he was proud and humbled by the award and acknowledged those who nominated him for the honour.

“Being involved in our community has been wonderful,” he said. “It was a joy to manage HMRI … it was a place where we wanted to make everyone better tomorrow than they are today.

“The AM is a reflection of the work by a great many people in the organisations I have been involved with over the years.”

Glenn Turner followed Mr Kennedy into both roles, first as Foundation Chair (2006-12) then as Board Chair for three years (2013-16). During his 10-year tenure, Mr Turner provided invaluable strategic and fundraising leadership to position HMRI as a world-class entity in translational research.

There was a fourfold increase in income and trebling of researcher numbers. With it came a raft of new resources and opportunities.

“I've always been very keen on technology and using it to find better ways to do things. That's what was successful in my business and I've just carried it into the afterlife of that,” Mr Turner told the Newcastle Herald.

The 69-year-old continues to serve as director of Hunter Angels in support of local start-ups and is an honorary member of the Salvation Army's Hunter advisory council.

“The achievement I'm proudest of is working with the Hunter Medical Research Institute, with the good management team and very intelligent board,” he adds. “This is more of an award for the teams I’ve been proud to have been part of than for myself.”

Based at Calvary Mater Newcastle, Professor Geoff Isbister received his AM for significant service to medical research in the field of toxicology, having made ground-breaking discoveries in snake and spider antivenom, along with poisons and drugs.

His role in establishing the Australian Snakebite Project has helped to define the required dosage of snake antivenom, potentially saving millions of dollars for emergency health-care providers in Australia.

“My research generally challenges beliefs about toxic substances,” Professor Isbister said. “Almost every time we do a study, the result isn't what you expect because many treatments are based on a single case or expert opinion from a long time ago.”

HMRI Director Professor Tom Walley congratulated the three recipients.

“All three are highly deserving of this great honour,” Professor Walley said. “Individually, they have played key roles in building HMRI’s regional, national global reputation and financial standing while being leaders in their respective fields. It’s also testament to the teamwork which has allowed growth on so many fronts.”