07/11/2014 - 15:28

Foundation-stone funds for research

07/11/2014 - 15:28

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Securing support for startup ventures is no easy feat, but David Rowe has had an early win.

Foundation-stone funds for research
NEW DIRECTION: David Rowe is chairing a new medical research foundation based at Fiona Stanley Hospital. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Securing support for startup ventures is no easy feat, but David Rowe has had an early win.

It's a scenario about which most startups and not-for-profits can only dream – being offered a substantial sum of money to launch a venture with no strings attached.

David Rowe is one of the fortunate few for whom the dream became a reality, thanks to a philanthropic family looking for a cause.

“A lawyer came to me said, ‘I’ve got this family that wants to donate $60,000, but I can’t tell you who it is and if you ask the opportunity won’t be there for you’,” Mr Rowe told Business News.

Needless to say, Mr Rowe accepted the money as the first instalment of what he hopes will be a fruitful fundraising campaign for a new medical research institute.

The $60,000 donation was made to the new Warren Jones Institute for Community Health and Medical Research to be based at the Fiona Stanley Hospital.

The institute has in-principle support (but no funding) from the state government, which recognised the need for a medical research base at the $2 billion hospital.

Thus, as chairman of the new institute, Mr Rowe’s task is to tread the well-worn fundraising trail.

The first goal is to secure $5 million in funding by July 2015, with the total figure increasing to $7.5 million by July 2016.

The launch of the institute comes 18 years after Warren Jones established the Fremantle Hospital Medical Research Foundation, which now holds $4 million in the bank.

Mr Jones was best known for his involvement in helping the Alan Bond-backed Australia II win the 1983 America’s Cup at Newport on the US north-east coast.

He was also honorary chairman of the Fremantle Hospital board and, in that role, instigated the launch of the associated research foundation, of which he was a trustee until his death in 2002.

Mr Rowe is a former chairman of the foundation and told Business News he wanted the Fremantle research foundation to be replicated at Fiona Stanley.

The original intent was to simply create another branch of the Fremantle foundation, but when that proved too difficult Mr Rowe started from scratch.

Mr Jones’ family has also contributed to initial seed funding.

Mr Rowe said he was determined to create a foundation that was transparent and collaborative with other medical research institutes.

“I think if researchers and clinicians collaborate a lot more going forward it will make a difference to research outcomes in Western Australia,” he said.

“We are going to be hot to trot on collaboration; we’re not going to just support people in their silos – teamwork is going to be really, really important.”

Other research organisations include the majors such as the Telethon Kids Institute and its peers (listed right), but also many other smaller institutes.

Royal Perth Hospital also has its own medical research foundation while the state’s universities have various affiliated research institutes.

Murdoch University, for example, has a research institute focused on immunology and infectious diseases, while Notre Dame has an institute for health research.

Mr Rowe also said he hoped the establishment of another foundation providing grants would enable researchers to leverage that funding to secure more from the federal government through its National Health and Medical Research Council grants.

“We want to contribute to a greater proportion of NHMRC grants coming to Western Australia,” Mr Rowe said.

“Over the past few years that has dropped significantly.

“We would hope [researchers] would use what they get from us to demonstrate to the Commonwealth that they are worthy recipients because there [there will be] a track record of collaborative and measurable research.”

Mr Rowe said an advisory committee would be set up to determine which research teams would be suit a grant from the foundation.


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