Leading Australian Scientist Wins Ramaciotti Foundation Medal
20 October 2011 at 12:31 pm
An Australian scientist whose work has led to a breakthrough in a potential treatment for leukaemia and significant developments in the quest to treat Alzheimer’s, has been awarded the prestigious Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research and a $50,000 grant.
The medal was presented to Professor Michael Parker from Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research at the annual Ramaciotti Awards, where Perpetual distributed over $2.6 million in funding to Australian biomedical researchers on behalf of the Ramaciotti Foundations.
In a career that spans more than 25 years, Professor Parker’s research has made major inroads into the use of protein crystallography, a process akin to an X-ray microscope that allows researchers a three dimensional look at the atomic structure of proteins, the building blocks of the body. The shapes discovered through this process have provided the basis for designing drugs to treat a range of serious diseases, including Alzheimer’s, leukaemia and other cancers, and infections.
Professor Parker told the awards audience that he was thrilled that his work has been highlighted by the Ramaciotti Foundations.
Professor Parker said he is passionate about the future of medical research in Australia, and an important element of that future is recognising and rewarding local scientists and their work throughout their careers.
He said the Ramaciotti Foundations are well known throughout the medical research community for providing awards and grants that truly make a difference for local researchers.
The Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research 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 Professors Sam Berkovic, Chris Parish, T Jack Martin, Robert Baxter, Ian Frazer and Christopher Goodnow.
Andrew Thomas, General Manager, Philanthropy at Perpetual, which manages the Ramaciotti Foundations, said the Ramaciotti Medal is an important way to recognise the contribution of Australia’s world-leading biomedical researchers.
Thomas says Ramaciotti is a great example of sustainable giving
Thomas said winners of the Ramaciotti Medal provide are also a great example of where support for early stage research can lead, and the ripple effect that can often come from philanthropic giving – well beyond an initial donation.
He says private philanthropy funds people and projects with a higher level of risk that government and corporate funders often won’t take.
Dr Noel Chambers from Research Australia said philanthropists, like Vera Ramaciotti, fill a void in medical research in Australia.
Dr Chambers says philanthropy plays an important role in creating opportunities for medical researchers, particularly those at an early stage in their careers.
Managed by Perpetual, the Ramaciotti Foundations were established in 1970 with a $6.7 million bequest. Since then, the charitable trusts have donated more than $51 million to biomedical research.
At the 2011 Ramaciotti Awards, the Ramaciotti Foundations granted over $2.6 million to biomedical research in Australia, the largest distribution in their history.
A joint research team led by Professors James Whisstock and Ian Smith from Monash University, and Professor Mike Lawrence from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research have received the $1 million Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award to establish the centre, to be named The Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Centre for Structural Cryo-Electron Microscopy.
The $1 million Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award is granted every two years from the Ramaciotti Foundations.
According to Professor Whisstock, the use of Cryo-EM in the exploration of protein function and dysfunction has made leaps and bounds over the past few years.
Perpetual is one of the largest managers of private charitable foundations in Australia, with $1.2 billion in funds under management (as at 30 June 2011). Perpetual is trustee to more than 450 charitable trusts that support medical, social, environmental, religious, cultural and educational causes.