Viertel Foundation awards $4.09 million to fund medical research


Three medical researchers were admitted to the Viertel Foundation Senior Medical Research Fellowship  one of Australia’s largest philanthropic medical research grants, to fund their work in combatting the effects of brain damage and developing interventions for cancer and chronic pain over the next five years. 

The 2020 Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellows, who will each receive $1.25 million over five years to support their work, are Dr Jana Vukovic of the University of Queensland and Chen Davidovich, an associate professor of Monash University.  

The third researcher, Dr Michelle Halls of Monash University also received a fellowship grant through additional funds secured by The Cross Family and The Frank Alexander Charitable Trusts. The third fellowship became available when a 2019 research project’s research leader moved to a new position. 

Four other medical researchers have been awarded one-year grants to continue their work, each receiving $85,000 for their one-year clinical investigator award. 

The four researchers are Associate Professor Chrishan Nalliah, Macquarie University, Dr Johnathan Kaufman, Western Health, Dr Jessica Day, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, and Dr Benedict Costello, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.  

Professor Peter Leedman, Chairman of the Viertel Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board, said the candidates for 2020 exhibited what had become the hallmark of all Viertel Foundation applicants: exceptional quality and dedication. 

“It is always difficult to make a decision about which projects we can fund each year. I congratulate this year’s successful fellows and clinical investigators – but want all applicants to know that their work, and their talent, was inspiring for everyone on the Advisory Board. Australia is fortunate to have this level of talent in our medical research community,” Leedman said. 

Since its establishment, the Viertel Foundation has awarded a total of 55 Senior Medical Research Fellowships and 139 Clinical Investigator awards, ensuring that important medical and health conditions, and the treatments for them, can be researched. 

The importance of medical research 

“If there has ever been a time when the importance of medical research has been fully appreciated, that time is now during this year as we all silently cheer on the medical research teams around the world who are working right now therapies and treatments for COVID-19,” said Jodi Kennedy, General Manager of Charitable Trusts and Philanthropy at Equity Trustees. 

“As one of the largest philanthropic funders of medical research in Australia, we are always working with the sector to ensure our funding decisions can make the biggest impact in the health challenges we have now – and ahead of us. That is the power of the legacy left by Sylvia and Charles Viertel just over 25 years ago, Kennedy said.  

The Viertel Foundation is managed in partnership with co-trustees Justice Debra Mullins AO (Chair), Rex Freudenberg and Paul de Silva, and is one of Australia’s largest charitable foundations, distributing around $7.5 million annually.