Ramaciotti Foundations support HMRI researchers

Oct 17 2012

The Ramaciotti Foundations awarded almost $224,000 in grants to three HMRI researchers from the University of Newcastle at a gala dinner on Tuesday night, to support continued outstanding biomedical research.

The Ramaciotti Foundations awarded over $1.6 million to 23 recipients at the annual awards evening in Brisbane.

The grant awarded to Professor Ian Symonds will be used to add a confocal system to a microscope currently owned by the university’s Mothers and Babies Research Centre. The confocal system will allow researchers to view living cells and tissues at a higher resolution, using a variety of fluorescence techniques.

“The confocal system and microscope will also be used in teaching research students, who will benefit from being able to see the actual events in cells they are studying, rather than only viewing them in a textbook. We believe this system will lead to exciting new discoveries and are grateful to the Ramaciotti Foundations for funding this grant,” Professor Symonds said.

Doctor Vanessa McDonald’s research will focus on a lung disorder – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  COPD is a common condition associated with many clinical consequences that negatively impact on quality of life.  The burden of illness from COPD remains high despite current treatment.

“It’s estimated that between one in seven Australians over the age of 40 suffer from COPD and it is a leading cause of hospital admission. As such it places a major burden on the health care system and we’re hopeful that our research can help minimise this and improve the lives of people with the disease.

“We will conduct a randomised control trial testing an individualised pharmacotherapy approach where specific treatments will be applied to different inflammatory subtypes of the disease. We’ll then look at what effect these treatments have on exacerbation of COPD, quality of life and other health outcomes,” Dr McDonald said.

This study will examine the effect of targeted anti-inflammatory treatment in patients with COPD and will examine the role of a simple blood test to assess and manage COPD.

Doctor Christopher Scarlett will establish a pancreatic cancer program to screen the activity and effectiveness of natural compounds.

“Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death in Westernised countries, with an overall five-year survival rate of less than five per cent,” Dr. Scarlett said.

“Naturally occurring compounds are potentially a major source of vital new anti-cancer therapies, and this unique project will use bioactive compounds extracted from multiple natural sources, to find potential new treatments for pancreatic cancer, a disease which remains largely resistant to conventional therapies.”

Each year the Ramaciotti Foundations, managed by Perpetual, support biomedical research through significant distributions via the Ramaciotti Awards.

Andrew Thomas, General Manager, Philanthropy at Perpetual said, “As one of the largest private contributors to the biomedical field, the Ramaciotti Foundations are an important event on the medical calendar. This year, the Foundations awarded over $1.6 million in grants to researchers across Australia.

He added, “The scope of this year’s award recipients’ work is truly impressive. We congratulate each winner on their outstanding contribution to biomedical research internationally. Their work is a testament to the value of Australian-lead innovation.

“Australia’s biomedical researchers do extraordinary work, every day, to improve the health and lives of everyone in the community. The Ramaciotti Awards are an important opportunity to recognise some of the best work in the sector, and to provide the funding to make it possible,” Mr Thomas said.

The Ramaciotti Foundations were established in 1970 by Vera Ramaciotti with $6.7 million in funds. Since then, the charitable trusts have donated more than $52.5 million to biomedical research.