Kathryn North wants to make genomic medicine a household phrase. She shares her passion with Paul Biegler.

Fancy looking for a single spelling mistake in 1,000 hand-typed copies of War and Peace?

If so, you are likely to get on well with Kathryn North, the redoubtable, razor-sharp yet decidedly congenial director of Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), Australia’s largest organisation investigating childhood illness. North has made it her life’s mission to delve deep into the three billion bases that make up the human genome as she hunts for the errors that cause disease.

The 57-year-old greets me at her home in a leafy inner suburb of Melbourne. Her black dress and dark-rimmed specs is all-purpose corporate kit for someone wielding a $100 million-plus research budget and whose job includes meetings with the likes of the institute’s founding patron Rupert Murdoch and spouse Jerry Hall. (For the record, Hall “was really warm” and “just relaxed everybody”.)

But North has a softness of tone and benevolent air that speaks to her past as a paediatrician in Sydney in the 1990s, where she specialised in neuromuscular disorders. However, the lure of the children’s clinic would face stiff competition from her profound love for research.

Read the full profile of Kathryn North in Cosmos magazine here