Board of Directors

The Board comprises a number of doctors who are specialists in their field and business and social sector leaders who kindly donate their time to help manage The Foundation.

The Board of Directors currently comprises of the following members:

Dr R Sauer (Chairman)

Rob joined as a Director of the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation in 2017 and was appointed as Chairman in 2018. He is qualified in law and accountancy, and was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1974, and as a CPA in 1980. He has a BA (majoring in French language) and an LLB from University of Sydney, a Master of Commerce from UNSW (majoring in accounting and financial management) and a Doctor of Business Administration from Charles Sturt University with a thesis on the subject of venture capital and angel investment in small technology-based companies. He practiced as a solicitor in the law firm DibbsBarker of which he was a partner between 1978 and 2008, apart from two years living and working in Tokyo with the law firm Anderson Mori. In 1986 Rob was appointed by the Federal Minister for Industry Technology and Commerce as the first Chairman of the R &D Tax Concession Committee to administer the 150% R&D tax concession scheme, and a member of the federal Industry Research and Development Board. In 1989, Rob was one of the founding shareholders and directors of ResMed, now listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the ASX, presently the 15th largest company listed on ASX by market capitalisation. Rob was a member of the joint ASX and AusBiotech Committee which drafted the first Compliance Code for Listed Life Science companies. Rob was involved in the establishment of marine farming of salmon in Tasmania as the first chairman of Tassal Limited (1984-1990), and a director of Salmon Enterprises of Tasmania (1984-1988). He is Chairman of Echoview Holdings Pty Ltd which provides the world’s premier software for hydro-acoustic data processing used in fisheries research. Since 1995 he has also been a director of the Biopharm Australia Pty Ltd group involved in the development and sale of sulphated polysaccharides in veterinary and human-use pharmaceuticals for the treatment of musculoskeletal and other diseases and disorders. Rob’s passions include a lifetime of attempting to master the game of golf, travel, food and wine. He has two children and three grandchildren, and lives about three months a year in Paris and the remainder at home in Sydney


Mr J Harkness

Mr Harkness was a partner of KPMG for 24 years and National Executive Chairman for five years. After leaving KPMG in 2000, he has undertaken roles as a non executive director of listed and unlisted companies. Most recently, Mr Harkness was Chairman of Reliance Rail, a Director of Goodman Group and Sinclair Knight Merz, Chairman and a Director of Charter Hall Retail Management Limited, as well as a member of the Territorial Headquarters and Sydney Advisory Board of the Salvation Army. Mr Harkness joined the Board of Directors of the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation in 1984 and was appointed Chairman of the Foundation between 2000-2018. Mr Harkness is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and was a Fellow the Australian Institute of Company Directors until 2019.

John Dixon Hughes

Dr J Dixon Hughes OAM

John Dixon Hughes OAM has been a member of the NFMRI Board of Directors and Research Advisory Committees since 1977 and was Chairman of the Research Advisory Committee from 2000 until 2018. John is a consultant general surgeon with over 60 years experience.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and was awarded the College Medal in 1990 and the NSW State Committee Merit Award in 2008 for distinguished service to surgery. He is an Approved Medical Specialist for the Workers Compensation Commission NSW for disputes and appeals and was formerly Chairman of Infection Control Advisory Group for NSW Health. In 1984 he was the convener and chair of the meetings of the Negotiating Committee for the New South Wales Medical Profession to resolve the “Doctor’s Dispute” with the NSW Government. He was the initial Chairman of the Medical Services Committee of NSW, a statutory Committee to provide advice to the Government and the Ministry. He served in this role from 1984 to 1996 and as Committee Administrator from 1996 to 2016. John was also a foundation member of the Australian Association of Surgeons, Distinguished Councillor from 1982 and served as President, Secretary and Councillor over many years. He is a Member of the Australian Medical Association, was appointed Fellow in 1985, and received the NSW President’s Award in1990 for distinguished services to medicine in NSW. He was also a Board Member of Sydney Hospital for over 14 years and served as Senior Vice President, Chairman of Medical Staff Council and Chairman of the Surgical Research and Ethics Committees and was actively involved in surgical research. In 2010, John was awarded an OAM for services to medicine.

Elaine Saunders

Prof E Saunders

Elaine Saunders is an audiological scientist and biomedical engineer.  She is co-founder and Executive Chairman of Blamey Saunders hears, a hearing aid and telehealth company.  Elaine is an advocate for people with hearing loss and aims to reduce the barriers to quality hearing care and hearing aids. She was co-founder and former CEO of Dynamic Hearing Pty Ltd (now part of Cirrus Logic), a company which supplies award winning digital signal processing for ultra-low power chips for the hearing aid and Bluetooth headset industry. Elaine’s recent personal awards include the BioMelbourne Network’s Women in Leadership Award, AFR/Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence and the ATSE Clunies Ross Medal for Entrepreneur of the Year. Elaine is Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health Arts and Design, Swinburne University and Chair of its Innovation Precinct Advisory Board.  She is Entrepreneur in Residence at the Bionics Institute and a former Non-Executive Director of Alfred Health.

Dr K Hellestrand

Kevin Hellestrand has been a member of the Board of Directors in since 2001. Kevin Hellestrand has been in private practice as a Cardiologist and Cardiac Electrophysiologist for 35 years. He has been a co-author of more than 50 journal articles, reviews and book chapters. Kevin is a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, American College of Cardiology, Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand, Heart Rhythm Society, European Society of Cardiology. He is also a member of the North Shore Heart Research Foundation.


Mr A McGrath

Tony McGrath, has been Honorary Secretary of the Foundation since 1997. In 2004, Tony was a Founding Partner of McGrathNicol. Prior to this, Tony was the head of the Sydney Corporate Recovery division of KPMG. He has over 30 years of restructuring and insolvency experience. Tony has acted as a Liquidator of the HIH Insurance Group, which has been one of the largest failures in Australian corporate history. Other key engagements have included acting as Liquidator of the Pan Pharmaceuticals Group and the Voluntary Administration of the Henry Walker Eltin Group, All, Acting Trustee of Trio and Receiver of Banksia. Tony is a Non-Executive Director of  Servcorp Ltd., is a Commissioner of the Australian Rugby League and is also a Director of a number of other not-for-profit organisations.

Alison Choy Flannigan

Ms A Choy Flannigan

Alison Choy Flannigan joined the Foundation as a Company Secretary in 2014. Alison has over 20 years of corporate, commercial and regulatory experience and leads the Hall & Wilcox Health & Community team (including life sciences). Alison has been nominated by her peers as one of Australia’s best lawyers in the areas of health, aged care and biotechnology and has been recognised for this in Best Lawyers International and the Australian Financial Review. She was previously General Counsel of Ramsay Health Care Limited and has acted for a number of research related matters for public hospitals and eminent health and medical research institutes.

Prof A. Ian Smith

Professor Ian Smith joined NFMRI’s Board of Directors in 2017. He completed his first degree in Newcastle upon Tyne England and moved to Australia in 1984 to complete his PhD at Prince Henrys Institute Melbourne and Monash University. In 1991 Ian moved to the Baker Heart Research Institute and was Associate Director until his move to Monash University in 2004. Ian is currently Vice-Provost (Research & Research Infrastructure) and has responsibility for the oversight and management of the universities research alliances and research infrastructure as well as developing and implementing strategies to meet future university infrastructure needs in these areas. A major focus is building linkages to industry and encouraging large companies and SMEs to use the university’s globally-recognised research capabilities and tools to innovate, capture new opportunities and solve problems. Ian has a background in both industry and research. He is a leader in his field of medical research, which has resulted in over 260 publications and many patents. Ian receives regular invitations to speak at international meetings and his research has had a direct impact on human health and led to changes in clinical practice. Ian also co-founded a proteomics-based, publicly listed, biotechnology company, which he helped build to IPO and trade sale and he continues to collaborate and consult widely with the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. Ian is a board director and chair of a number of national and international senior government and non-government advisory board and committee memberships, many with a strong industry focus. He also serves on a number of international editorial boards and held office-bearing positions in national and international societies, helping organise numerous national and international scientific meetings. Ian’s unique background in business and research drives his passion to get entrepreneurs and industry collaborating and using university research capabilities to innovate. He believes that Australia lags behind many countries in utilising this enormous asset and is passionate about finding ways to make the collaborative process as efficient and effective as possible for industry, sharing outcomes and success stories to build awareness.