Ramaciotti Foundations' Medal for Excellence
5 November 2010 at 9:32 am
A scientist who made a major breakthrough in understanding how the immune system is controlled has been awarded the prestigious Ramaciotti Foundations' Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research and a $50,000 grant.
The medal will be presented to the Australian National University’s Professor Christopher Goodnow at the annual Ramaciotti Awards where Perpetual Trustee Company distributed $1.6 million in funding to Australian biomedical researchers.
Prof. Goodnow’s research is focused on understanding how the immune system is controlled so that it does not attack our own organs and tissues when it repels invading bacteria and viruses. This will enable scientists to develop more effective drugs for treatment of a wide range of conditions, from infectious diseases to diabetes and cancer.
In his research, Prof. Goodnow discovered the immune system is controlled by a series of checkpoints acting at each stage in the mobilisation of an immune response, much as a series of passwords and keys regulate each step in a missile launch to prevent “friendly fire”.
Prof. Goodnow explained that his team has been able to reveal the rules of engagement that govern the immune system, ensuring that each unique pattern of tissue antigens is not mistaken for the pattern of molecules displayed by a virus or bacteria.
He says this opens up the opportunity to figure out why the rules have been bent or broken in autoimmune diseases, allergy, or chronic infection, and developing drugs that harness those normal mechanisms to improve the success of transplant rejection or cancer treatment.
Prof. Goodnow says winning the Ramaciotti Medal is a great honour, especially since past funding from the Ramaciotti Foundation and other Perpetual philanthropic trusts like the Nancy E Pendergast Charitable Trust Fund has played a pivotal role in initiating critical new steps in his medical research career.
The Ramaciotti Medal carries an award of $50,000 and recognises outstanding contribution to clinical or biomedical research, or the way in which healthcare is delivered. The nominee must still be actively engaged in research and must have previously received support from the Ramaciotti Foundations. High profile past winners include Professor Sam Berkovic, Professor Chris Parish, Professor Thomas Martin, Professor Robert Baxter, Professor Ian Frazer and Professor Geoff McFadden.
Andrew Thomas, General Manager, Philanthropy at Perpetual, which manages the charitable trust, said that the Ramaciotti Medal is an important way to recognise Australian scientists who are involved in world leading biomedical research.
He says the winner of the Ramaciotti Medal provides a great example of where such research can lead, and the huge impact that philanthropic giving can make – well beyond an initial donation.
Managed by Perpetual, the Ramaciotti Foundations were established in 1970 with a $6.7 million bequest, which has now grown to $52 million (as at 31 August 2010), more than seven times the original sum. Over the past 40 years, the Foundations have distributed around $48.5 million to biomedical research making the Foundations collectively one of the largest private contributors to biomedical research in Australia.