Media Release: 06 June 2014
The Garvan Research Foundation is urging Australians not to become complacent about medical research, following the Federal Government’s long term commitment to establish a new multi-million dollar Medical Research Future Fund. While commending the Federal Government’s commitment, Garvan is reminding Australians that philanthropy and fundraising for medical research is still essential.
According to Andrew Giles, Chief Executive Officer at the Garvan Research Foundation, donations made by corporate Australia and individuals have not only pushed Australia up the leader board as one of the most charitable countries, but also helped Australia cement its place at the forefront of medical breakthroughs and scientific research.
“It is wonderful to see the Federal Government recognising the importance of supporting ongoing research. However, the reality is, for every dollar of funding our researchers receive, we still need to raise another 70 cents in order to sustain research projects,” said Mr Giles.
“Some of the most cutting-edge research to come out of the Garvan Institute in the past ten years has only been made possible by philanthropic support and individual donations. If the donations stopped coming through today a lot of our researchers would have to pack their bags and abandon some of their most promising work. Thanks to the incredible support of our donors, we have been able to sustain research for cancer, immunology, neuroscience, bone biology, diabetes and metabolism.”
For more than fifty years, Garvan researchers have been making important breakthroughs that have improved diagnosis, treatment and patient outcomes for some of the major diseases impacting human health. This month the Garvan Research Foundation will be sending out a heartfelt appeal to the Australian community, encouraging people to continue donating so scientists at the Garvan Institute can continue their world class research.
Mr Giles says philanthropic support not only alleviates some of the financial stress on research teams, but also encourages innovation.
“The money we receive from donations is vital for funding novel projects – that is, a promising project in its very early stages that does not yet have enough basic data behind it to be eligible for Government funding. Donations are also crucial for the purchase of equipment and technology that is essential to modern day medical research. A donation of $10 can help purchase vital equipment and provide us with the means to continue using innovative approaches to achieve life-changing breakthroughs,” said Andrew Giles.
Five ground-breaking research projects that would not have happened without fundraising support:
Sequencing genomes for pancreatic cancer: Prof Andrew Biankin and an international team of more than 100 researchers worked together to sequence the genomes of 100 pancreatic tumours and compare them to normal tissue, determining the genetic change that leads to this cancer. They discovered more than 2,000 mutated genes, demonstrating that so-called ‘pancreatic cancer’ is not one disease, but many, and suggesting that people who seemingly have the same cancer might need to be treated quite differently. This project was initially funded by part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and the largest ever single grant from NHMRC of $27.5 million, and continues into the next phases with support from donations, the sale of purple awareness ribbons and community fundraisers participating in events including marathons and fun runs around the country.
Establishment of Garvan’s Immunology Division: One bequest established the entire Garvan Immunology Division in the late 1990s. This generous donation has led to many projects that have allowed researchers to gain a better understanding of inflammatory diseases and, more recently, the identification of chemical messengers and genes that lead to the development of autoimmune diseases and allergies.
Islet cell transplants for patients with Type 1 diabetes: Garvan researchers, lead by A/Prof Shane Grey, identified a way to make a frustratingly tricky transplant – of insulin-producing ‘islets of Langerhans’ into patients with Type 1 diabetes – more successful. This development has the potential to transform the treatment and management of Type 1 diabetes. This entire project began as a result of fundraising. Since the fundraising injection, the project received NHMRC funding and is now set to go to clinical trial.
Circulating DNA methylation for the development of an early diagnosis test for ovarian cancer: Dr Goli Samimi and a team of Garvan researchers identified biochemical changes that occur in circulating DNA of women with ovarian cancer. This signified a major development in the ongoing journey to develop a test for the early detection of ovarian cancer. Mrs Margaret Rose AM, one of a small number of ovarian cancer survivors, has helped raise more than $1 million, including a significant personal donation, to support Garvan’s ovarian cancer research.
Research to find new treatments for Neuroblastoma: Dr Alex Swarbrick currently leads a project that has identified a way of blocking the growth of neuroblastoma, an aggressive childhood cancer of the nervous system. Dr Swarbrick’s team discovered they were able to kill neuroblastoma cancer cells by delivering a drug that specifically blocks a new class of genes known as microRNAs. This is a world-first discovery that provides hope for new cancer treatments. This work was supported by grants from numerous cancer organisations and individual donors.