The philanthropic ambition of Vera Ramaciotti, who established the Ramaciotti Foundations in 1970, has seen more than $59 million awarded to Australian biomedical researchers. Past winners have been responsible for the development of the world’s first cervical cancer vaccines and the Cochlear implant – highlighting the unmeasurable positive impact philanthropy can have on the lives of millions of people worldwide.

The biennial Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award, worth $1 million, has been granted to Professor Katharina Gaus of The University of New South Wales’ School of Medical Sciences.

The award will establish the Ramaciotti Systems Microscopy Facility at UNSW, the first facility dedicated to Systems Microscopy in Australia. Systems Microscopy is establishing a new gold-standard in biomedical research. It combines state-of-the-art imaging of individual molecules and single cells with complex biological systems, delivering transformative insights into human health and disease to inform improved diagnostics and therapies in cancer, immunology, neuroscience, metabolic disorders and regenerative medicine.

Professor Derek Hart of The University of Sydney led the Ramaciotti Scientific Advisory Committee which directed Perpetual in selecting the grant recipients. “The work to significantly progress Systems Microscopy capabilities in Australia will make a meaningful and lasting contribution to the most important biomedical issues of our time,” he said.

Accepting the award, Professor Gaus said: “It’s an incredible honour to receive the Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award. Australia is a world leader in biomedical research, and my peers across Australia – in many different specialties – are dedicated to improving the lives of millions of people worldwide.

“I am truly humbled to receive this award, which will help to establish the first Australian facility dedicated to Systems Microscopy. Systems Microscopy is shaping the future of biomedical research, and it’s so exciting this new facility will strengthen Australia’s leadership in the area.

“This award is testament to 12 years of continuous work, an achievement not possible without the support of my UNSW research partners, Professor Peter Gunning, Dr John Lock, and Dr Renee Whan,” Professor Gaus said.

Professor Susan Clark of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research has been selected as the recipient of the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research, an annual award of $50,000, to honour an outstanding discovery in clinical or experimental biomedical research. Professor Clark’s ground-breaking discoveries in cancer DNA biology have led to new tests for early cancer detection

Up to $150,000 will also be allocated to each of the five recipients of the Ramaciotti Health Investment Grants. The grants are awarded to autonomous early career scientists to support health or medical research with a potential path to clinical application within five years. The recipients are: Dr Julie Brown, UNSW, for Development of guidelines for use of comfort and orthopaedic aids for older people travelling in cars; Dr Roisin McMahon, Griffith University, for Overcoming the resistance: new antimicrobials that disarm, rather than destroy bacteria; Dr Freda Passam, Heart Research Institute, for Targeting protein disulphide isomerase for the prevention of thrombotic disease; Dr Natasha Rogers, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, for Normothermic machine perfusion to improve kidney transplant outcomes; and Dr Makrina Totsika, Queensland University of Technology, for Novel antimicrobial therapies for multidrug resistant bacteria.

“As trustee of the Ramaciotti Foundations, we are proud of our continuous support of the Australian biomedical community,” said Perpetual’s National Manager of Philanthropy and Non Profit Services, Caitriona Fay.

“The Ramaciotti Foundations are one of the largest private contributors to biomedical research in Australia and have provided essential support to some of our most remarkable scientists since 1970. We have witnessed first-hand the life changing impact that philanthropy can have on society. Thanks to Vera Ramaciotti’s vision and the legacy she has created, she has helped shape the futures of not only the recipients, but people worldwide who will benefit from their work.”

Ramaciotti Foundations began with a philanthropic grant of $6.7 million, with the first major grant going to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 1971. Since then, the Foundations have donated more than $59 million to biomedical research and their combined capital now stands at over $58 million.

The Ramaciotti Awards have over time played a role in some incredible work, including the discovery of lithium, in vitro fertilisation, the invention of aspro as a form of Aspirin in a tablet, and the invention of the Cochlear implant.

Perpetual is one of Australia’s largest managers and distributors of philanthropic funds with $2.6 billion in funds under advice (as at 30 June 2017). Perpetual is trustee for approximately 1000 charitable trusts and endowments and provides individuals and families with advice on establishing charitable foundations and structured giving programs. Perpetual also assists charities and not-for-profit organisations with investment advice and management.