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Philanthropy commits more than $1million to Australian biomedical research

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Australian biomedical research

Perpetual, as trustee of the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Foundations, has announced the 2020 recipients of the Ramaciotti Awards for Biomedical Research. This year more than $1 million is being distributed to nine biomedical researchers, coinciding with the Foundations’ 50th anniversary.

The Awards include the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence, an annual award of $50,000, provided to a researcher who has made an outstanding discovery in clinical or experimental biomedical research.

This year, the honour has been jointly awarded to Professor Andrew Roberts and Professor John Seymour, for their roles in researching and conducting clinical trials for a breakthrough anti-cancer drug Venetoclax, that is benefiting patients across the world who have chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

Both work at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the University of Melbourne, and Professor Roberts conducts research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

Notably, the professors were leaders in the clinical trials of a new class of drug that targets chemotherapy-resistant leukaemia. It has subsequently received TGA and FDA approvals for the Australian and US markets respectively and is now routinely used in patient care.

Currently, there are more than 200 studies globally to further explore the potential of the drug to treat other cancers, in combination with existing treatments. Their research and clinical work have contributed to clinicians’ understanding of how this therapy can address difficult-to-treat blood cancers. Many thousands of patients across the world have already benefited from this ground breaking treatment. Of his receipt of the Ramaciotti Medal of Excellence, Professor Roberts said: “The most rewarding aspect of our research is seeing the patients who are benefiting from having this drug available. The support of the Ramaciotti Awards to further our research is wonderful”.

Joint recipient, Professor Seymour added, “Venetoclax has a distinctly Melbourne story – from basic research to clinical trials all conducted or led from here – and so this award for excellence also speaks to the world-class people and capability within this city, and the strength of collaboration in the Parkville biomedical precinct.

“Andrew and I deeply thank the Ramaciotti Foundations for this recognition, and we look forward to what’s possible in the next exciting phase of this research which is having a global impact in blood cancer.”

As part of the Awards, the Ramaciotti Health Investment Grants have allocated up to $150,000 for each of seven recipients across Australia, to support their progress in taking their research to clinical application within five years.

This year, the Derek Hart Memorial Award was awarded to Health Investment Grant recipient, Dr Rona Chandrawati from the University of New South Wales. This Award honours the late Derek Hart’s contributions to medical research and his long association with the Ramaciotti Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee, including as Chair from 2012-2017.

The Ramaciotti Foundations are collectively one of the largest private contributors to biomedical research in Australia and this year are celebrating their 50th anniversary, having granted over $62.5 million to research projects since 1970. This has included support for internationally renowned discoveries such as the world’s first cervical cancer vaccines and the Cochlear implant.

Commenting on the significance of the milestone, Perpetual’s Managing Partner, Community and Social Investments, Caitriona Fay, said: “We are proud to continue the legacy of Clive and Vera Ramaciotti, 50 years after they established the Foundations to support Australia’s biomedical community. The impact of their initial investment and vision has been enduring and demonstrates that when philanthropy invests in bold ideas, we can significantly improve the wellbeing and health of millions of people worldwide”.

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