Collaborations are the lifeblood of research. Japanese writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa captured its spirit when he said: “Individually we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

In truth, not all relationships are alike. While peer collaboration is the basis on which great research is built, it is the expertise of the researchers and the environment in which they coexist which marks the efficacy of the outcome.

It is also the ‘chemistry’ between researchers that can impact the process.

According to Dr Russell Basser*, Chair of the HAMRC Scientific Advisory Committee, “We have a chance to do something significant in the medical field because of the calibre of people who are attracted to the work we do.”

Dr Basser has worked in a wide range of therapeutic areas and overseen clinical development, clinical operations, regulatory affairs, drug safety and medical writing.

Medical and scientific collaborations between Israel and Australia are long-standing and have been extremely fruitful, but until now, these have tended to happen in a serendipitous fashion rather than through any formal efforts.

The Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) is a research behemoth, standing head and shoulders above any other hospital-based research centre in Israel. This is not a subjective claim, but a statement backed by evidence.

It is responsible for nearly 60% of all hospital-based research in Israel, a remarkable statistic given the number of world-class tertiary hospitals in the country. It is also no surprise when researchers from the HMO received six of the eight coveted awards granted in 2020 by the Israel Science Foundation, the Israeli agency that supports breakthrough basic science in various fields of knowledge.

But it’s in its “bedside-to-bench” approach to medical research that HMO really stands apart. Time and again, physician-scientists have changed the history of medicine by identifying a problem in the clinic and taking to the lab to address it. Alexander Fleming is one such example. After watching men die of sepsis during World War I while serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps, he then returned home to create penicillin.

In recent times, the clinician researcher has started to become a rarity and healthcare professionals have mostly had to choose between life as a researcher or a clinician. This can mean that research doesn’t address problems seen in clinical practice. In stark contrast to this trend, HMO provides time for its talented health professionals to drive research questions, develop new discoveries and ensure implementation of best practice care for their patients.

An excellent example of this is the paediatric nephrology project which the HAMRC Scientific Advisory Committee recently selected for support. Aimed at developing a treatment to mature the underdeveloped kidneys of premature babies – the genesis of this project partially lies in the observations of Dr Oded Volovelsky during his clinical work as the head of paediatric nephrology at HMO. The research marries Dr Volovelsky’s discoveries in mouse models with the unique skills of Monash University basic science researcher, Dr Alex Combes, who has developed a technique for quantitatively analysing even small changes in kidney cell numbers.

As Dr Basser observers, “There is a lovely cultural similarity between Australia and Israel in our drive to be better than the smallness of our country. And I believe our researchers are tuned into that, which explains why we are producing some fantastic research particularly in the medical field.”

Dr Basser’s involvement with and commitment to the HAMRC is also linked to his belief that from a scientific perspective, international collaborations are the lifeblood of any contemporary world-class centre.

“Researchers rely on working with other groups and will look for counterparts who possess the knowledge and expertise that will help them uncover specific research they’ve chosen to pursue,” he said.

“Better still is to work with a culture in which research is valued at peer level and actively supported by government.”

All projects seeking research funding from the HAMRC are subject to a rigorous review process by its Scientific Advisory Committee. Its members comprise prominent experts in medicine, research and higher education sectors. You can view the committee members' details here.

* Dr Russell Basser is a qualified physician. Since joining leading biopharmaceutical company CSL in 2001, Dr Basser has worked in a wide range of therapeutic areas and overseen clinical development, clinical operations, regulatory affairs, drug safety and biometrics/medical writing. He was responsible for globalising the Clinical R&D group and rebuilding the development capabilities in Japan and in 2014 was appointed to the role of Chief Medical Officer in Melbourne, Australia. In 2015 he took up the role of SVP R&D at Seqirus (a fully owned subsidiary of CSL Ltd), a new specialist influenza vaccine company formed from the merger of bioCSL which acquired influenza vaccine assets of Novartis. Seqirus is the second largest influenza vaccine company globally.