Following a 2013 strategic review, The Sydney Foundation for Medical Research has relaunched as the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation (NFMRI).
The Foundation will build on its 36 years of experience to become an ambassador for philanthropy in medical research innovation, says CEO Dr Noel Chambers.
“Australian researchers have a reputation for being excellent at their craft, but they alone cannot bring original innovations to the communities that will benefit,” Chambers says.
“Biomedical innovation makes its greatest impact when research skills, collaboration, translation, and commercialisation are brought together. This is where philanthropy can play a powerful and transformative role.”
The NFMRI’s primary objective is to support innovative areas of research to help benefit humankind through the prevention or eradication of diseases, and its focus on innovation is fundamental to its philosophy.
A doctor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, former researcher, Biotech CEO, Director of Philanthropy at Research Australia, and advisor to the Federal Government on intellectual property, Chambers has long been a champion of the idea that philanthropic investment in medical research can ‘go where others fear to tread’.
Systematic government funding gaps, academic reward structures, restrictions on resource sharing, and a risk-averse research culture are some of the barriers Chambers cites as holding Australian biomedical innovation back from reaching its true potential.
Philanthropy has the capacity to break through these boundaries, he says, to accelerate the realisation of new drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and devices, and to enable the collaborations required to bring these innovations into community use.
The NFMRI is inviting philanthropists and strategic givers to lean on its structure and considerable network of expertise to navigate the various pathways to supporting medical innovation.
Three investment portfolio models form the pillars of the new
NFMRI funding structure:
1. Original Innovation and Discovery
(<$200,000 p.a. for up to 3 years)
Funding original research and ‘blue sky’ thinking in its earliest phases.
2. Collaborative Innovation and Advancement
(<$100,000 p.a. for 1-2 years)
Working with researchers to ‘proof’ and give direction to findings,
undertake the ‘killer experiments’, access additive research expertise, and enable
collaborations that give research findings the traction to continue.
3. Innovation uptake and transformation
(<$150,000 p.a. for up to 1 year)
Supporting findings through the ‘Valley of Death’ – the ordinarily perilous journey from lab success to commercial realisation – attracting more collaborators and investors.
A fourth, more fluid portfolio, ‘Enabling Tools and Technologies’ facilitates philanthropic funds in unlocking knowledge libraries, accessing materials, and widening the field of knowledge tools available to researchers.
Private ancillary funds (PAFs), individuals interested in establishing sub-funds, and philanthropists looking to make an impact in the health and medical research field are invited to start a conversation with the foundation.
In the short-term, the NFMRI hopes to build towards $2-3 million of funding for innovative research per year, but in the long-term Chambers says Australia needs a $1 billion fund distributing $50 million per annum, and that this is not beyond reach.
“The collaboration and leveraging with other foundations and corporations that is possible through the NFMRI would not only be wonderful for research, but be of national importance,” he says.
Start with these questions, says the NFMRI Guide to Impact Giving:
1. Is there a specific disease I wish to support?
2. Do I want to support identified funding gaps in translational research?
3. Am I interested in prevention, diagnosis, or treatment?
4. Do I wish to support research focused on:
– Finding new discoveries,
– Validating and advancing early innovations, or
– Bridging the ‘Valley of Death’ and partnerships?
5. How do I wish to engage and what communication do I want to have?
6. Who can I partner with, or support, to facilitate my philanthropic objectives?
The National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation has deductible gift recipient (DGR) and tax concession charity (TCC) status.
To start a conversation with the NFMRI about making your philanthropic impact, contact CEO Dr Noel Chambers, email@example.com.