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New director for WEHI

WEHI 3 mins read
Professor Ken Smith

WEHI president Jane Hemstritch AO has today announced that Professor Ken Smith has been appointed as the next WEHI director.


Prof Smith will assume the role in May 2024 after returning to Australia from the UK, where he has been Head of the Department of Medicine at Cambridge University since 2010.


At a glance


·       Professor Ken Smith appointed the next director of WEHI.

·       Prof Smith will assume the role in May 2024 after returning to Australia from the UK, where he has led Cambridge University’s Department of Medicine.

·       A WEHI alum, he will be the institute’s seventh director in its 108-year history.


Global outlook

Prof Smith succeeds Professor Doug Hilton AO, who stepped down in August this year after 14 years in the role. 


With scientific research links spanning multiple countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and Africa, and with long-standing connections with Europe and the USA, Prof Smith will bring a distinctly global outlook to take WEHI into a new era.


He has been instrumental in forming alliances between industry and academia and has first-hand experience in founding start-up companies and commercial experience with the pharmaceutical industry in the UK, US and Europe.


Prof Smith is a WEHI alum, having completed his Doctor of Philosophy at WEHI through the University of Melbourne, supervised by former WEHI director, Sir Gustav Nossal AC, and Professor David Tarlinton. 


His Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery is from the University of Melbourne and his Doctor of Science is from the University of Cambridge.


Prof Smith was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2006, to the American Association of Physicians in 2020, and was awarded the Lister Institute Research Prize in 2007.  


The Smith Lab at Cambridge University runs an experimental medicine and translational program focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying immune-mediated diseases. Prof Smith is also Director of the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease.   


Outstanding leader


Prof Smith will be the seventh director of WEHI in the institute’s 108-year history.


President Jane Hemstrich AO said the board was excited by this exemplary appointment of an outstanding leader for WEHI and for the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct.


“Professor Ken Smith is a leader with a global perspective, funding and commercial experience and a proven track record in all facets of medical research, clinical practice and strategic leadership,” she said.


“He is a champion of equality, diversity and inclusion within his lab and beyond - and with the corresponding implementation of initiatives that confirm these priorities.


“We are confident that Ken will continue to build on the strong and distinct legacy of collaboration, integrity and brilliant research built by his WEHI predecessors, while boldly taking the institute into the future.”


Commenting on his appointment, Prof Smith said: “WEHI is globally-renowned for its outstanding history of critical discoveries in cancer, immune health and infection, developmental disorders and healthy ageing. 


“I’m looking forward to returning to WEHI, and to meeting the staff, students and supporters that are striving to help solve some of the world’s most complex health problems.”


The WEHI community looks forward to welcoming Prof Smith next year. Until that time, Professor Alan Cowman AC continues as acting director.


Prof Smith’s appointment follows a global recruitment process.



About us:


About WEHI (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research)

WEHI is where the world’s brightest minds collaborate and innovate to make life-changing scientific discoveries that help people live healthier for longer. Our medical researchers have been serving the community for more than 100 years, making transformative discoveries in cancers, infectious and immune diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy ageing. WEHI brings together diverse and creative people with different experience and expertise to solve some of the world’s most complex health problems. With partners across science, health, government, industry, and philanthropy, we are committed to long-term discovery, collaboration, and translation. At WEHI, we are brighter together.   
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