The establishment of a medical research institute at Mater Hill was a long-term goal of the Sisters of Mercy and the Mater Health Services Governing Board. This desire and commitment culminated in July 1998 with the formation of the Mater Medical Research Institute, a development funded by the Sisters of Mercy and their supporters. The Governor-General officially opened the institute in March 1999. In 2006, Mater Research incorporated and became a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) accredited independent medical research institute.
Mater Research commenced operation in 1998 with ten staff, since then it has experienced significant growth, creating an internationally competitive institute with many original programs attracting top scientists from around the globe.
Mater Research has documented significant outputs in publications, patents, student achievements, collaborations, peer-reviewed funding and other significant funding.
The initial scientific focus for Mater Research was cancer, in its broadest sense, however the research has grown from its strength in the basic immunology of cancer to seed and attract other independent scientific teams. The institute now has four research themes which are closely integrated with the clinical services at Mater.
The expansion of the research themes at Mater Research is in part a result of the close and effective working relationship established between Mater Research and Mater. Working together on significant joint ventures, including the CRC for Biomarker Translation, confirms the link between medical research and its clinical application and this relationship continues to strengthen.
Mater Research has also proved its capacity to attract funding for ongoing developments and is a proud partner in the Translational Research Institute (TRI), a $354 million project. It is anticipated that Mater Research will continue to grow rapidly both on the Mater campus and in the purpose built TRI building on the Princess Alexandra Hospital site.
The University of Queensland, as an affiliate organisation from the institute's inception, is also an increasingly important partner though the staff of the Mater Clinical School and its role in the TRI.
On 23 April 2013, canonical sponsorship for Mater was transferred to Mercy Partners, which means Mater Research is now owned by Mercy Partners.