Finding cures for children's genetic diseases


CMRI Remembers former Director, Professor Peter Rowe



Professor Peter Rowe's family have very kindly requested donations to CMRI in lieu of flowers.
We will also be collecting messages in his memory. If you would like to leave a message, please fill in this form
Read more about Peter Rowe's life and profound impact on Children's Medical Research Institute below.

The staff, students and supporters of Children’s Medical Research Institute are saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Peter Rowe at the age of 80 on 22 March, 2017. Professor Rowe served as Director of CMRI for 27 years until his retirement in 2006.

Remembered as one of Australia’s most accomplished biomedical researchers and research administrators, and fondly referred to as ‘Prof’ by those who worked closely with him, Prof Rowe was known for his unwavering support of biomedical research.

Current CMRI Director, Professor Roger Reddel says that, "Prof Rowe was responsible for creating a culture of high-quality fundamental science at CMRI, and for building up the areas of research in which CMRI now excels. He was a very formidable force, who has left a truly remarkable legacy. Our thoughts are with his wife Jo and all of his family at this very sad time."

Professor Peter Rowe received his medical education at the University of Sydney, and trained as a physician at Royal North Shore Hospital, where he became Clinical Superintendent. He then undertook training in biochemistry and cellular biology at Duke University and University of Pennsylvania in the USA, developing world-leading expertise in inherited metabolic diseases, especially diseases of folate metabolism. Returning to Australia, he set up a laboratory in the Institute of Child Health at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Camperdown. In 1980, he was appointed Lorimer Dods Professor of Paediatric Research at the University of Sydney, and Director of Children's Medical Research Foundation (which was renamed Children’s Medical Research Institute in 1985), rapidly switching the focus of its research to take advantage of the new science of molecular biology.

Stephen Ryall worked under Prof Rowe at CMRI for 27 years. “Personally, I owe him so much for giving me the start in my career, for challenging me, sharing with me and giving me the opportunity and freedom to develop my skills in the medical research sphere as an administrator and fundraiser. He was also a strong advocate for family and Christian values, and I will forever be grateful to him and his dear wife Jo for their support, love and wise counsel, especially during the tough times. He was very, very special to me - I am already missing him", Stephen said.

Professor Roger Reddel's connections with Prof Rowe go back even further, to the year he spent as an undergraduate researcher in his laboratory at the Institute of Child Health in 1973, which ultimately resulted in his decision to pursue a career in research. Prof Rowe recruited Roger back from the USA in 1988 to set up CMRI's Cancer Research Unit, which he continues to lead to this day.

Roger said, "I found Peter Rowe's approach to research inspiring and exciting. I learnt a tremendous amount from him about the importance of using experimental approaches that are not only start-of-the-art, but also robust, reliable and meticulous. He instilled an understanding that making major advances for children with serious illnesses requires a thorough understanding of normal biology and what goes wrong in disease, and that there are no short-cuts."

Prof Rowe was known to openly speak his mind, and nurtured an intellectual yet supportive and open environment at CMRI. He was available to staff at all levels within the organisation, and he and his wife Joanne fostered strong and long-lasting relationships with CMRI's many fundraising committees throughout NSW and ACT.

Our fundraising committees loved him, as he inspired them with hope and encouraged them to maintain their efforts towards a brighter future for medical research and future generations. He passed on this gift of inspiration to Roger,” Community Relations Manager, Jennifer Philps, said.

We will never forget the era we spent under his ever-watchful eye and no-nonsense approach, demanding the best but giving support and guidance when necessary. Under the often gruff and direct exterior, was a caring and loving family man and that included his CMRI family.”