Perpetual: Leading structural biology researcher Professor Michael Parker wins Ramaciotti Medal

October 20, 2011 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
An Australian scientist whose work has led to a breakthrough in a potential treatment for certain leukaemias 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 will be presented to Professor Michael Parker from Melbourne's St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research at the annual Ramaciotti Awards tonight, where Perpetual will also distribute 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, leukemia and other cancers, and infections.

"I'm thrilled that my work has been highlighted by the Ramaciotti Foundations and accept this award with great thanks," said Professor Parker. "It is a wonderful thing to be recognised, not just as a protein crystallographer, but as a medical researcher who has been fortunate to make a real impact."

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.

"In an environment where funding is difficult to come by, and where research often takes a long time to prove its worth, highlighting success and investing in the future of medical research is vital," 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. This type of support spurs us on to continue our important work."

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.

"Australia's contribution to international biomedical research is outstanding and our scientists rank highly in the global biotechnology innovation stakes, so we're pleased to be able to highlight one of those researchers through the Ramaciotti Medal."

Professor Parker has previously received support from the Ramaciotti Foundations in 2000, 2004 and 2007, where the grants he received enabled a new focus on using protein structures to discover drugs.

"The Ramaciotti Foundations support emerging researchers early in their career, often enabling them to buy equipment or start a piece of work that can be critical to their future successes."

Mr Thomas said winners of the Ramaciotti Medal provide 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.

"The Ramaciotti Medal is an opportunity to provide local recognition of individuals at the centre of an Australian biomedical research success story and who have made a significant contribution to science through their work."

Dr Noel Chambers from Research Australia said philanthropists, like Vera Ramaciotti, fill a void in medical research in Australia.

"Philanthropy plays an important role in creating opportunities for medical researchers, particularly those at an early stage in their careers. There are many worthy research projects that would benefit from funding through alternative sources, like philanthropists and charitable funds, especially when government doesn't have the funds or the appropriate processes to assist. This type of social investment has a significant impact in the community," said Dr Chambers.

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.

About the Ramaciotti Foundations

Managed by Perpetual, the Ramaciotti Foundations started off with $6.7 million in 1970 with the first major grant going to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 1971. This assisted with the establishment of the new Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Research Laboratories building.

Since then, the Foundations have donated more than $51 million to biomedical research and are one of the largest contributors to the field. Their combined capital now stands at over $48 million.

The Ramaciotti Foundations continue to support biomedical research and each year make significant distributions via the Ramaciotti Awards, providing funding support to areas such as molecular biology, genetics and immunology, and assisting young investigators taking up new challenges in biomedical research.

At the 2011 Ramaciotti Awards, the Ramaciotti Foundations will grant over $2.6 million to biomedical research in Australia, the largest distribution in their history.

About the Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award

This $1 million award is open to groups or individuals undertaking a single initiative in biomedical research within Australian universities, public hospitals, medical research institutes or other similar organisations. Traditionally, it funds a need that would not attract funding elsewhere. This award is presented every two years.

About the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research 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 and Professor Ian Frazer.

About the Ramaciotti Establishment and Equipment Grants

Establishment Grants - Establishment Grants are intended to provide short term research support for a young researcher who is taking, or has taken up a new position in an institution. The maximum amount for this gift is $75,000.

Equipment Grants - Equipment Grants are intended to provide funding of up to $75,000 towards the purchase of a single item of equipment costing $75,000 or more.

About Perpetual Philanthropic Services

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 including Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs) and the Perpetual Foundation - that support medical, social, environmental, religious, cultural and educational causes.

Perpetual Philanthropic Services is part of Perpetual Private Wealth which advises clients on $8.7 billion of funds (as at 30 June 2011). The Perpetual Private Wealth team of experts offer tailored advice and services and can help clients fulfill their charitable intentions. For more information visit www.perpetual.com.au/philanthropy.