30/01/2008 - 22:00

Palmer forms $100m charity

30/01/2008 - 22:00

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Medical research could almost be the other boom industry of Western Australia, with more than $300 million in pledges over the past year to this thriving sector.

Palmer forms $100m charity

Medical research could almost be the other boom industry of Western Australia, with more than $300 million in pledges over the past year to this thriving sector.

This week’s announcement by Queensland-based Mineralogy Pty Ltd chairman Clive Palmer that he planned to donate $100 million to medical research in WA surprised those in the field who knew nothing of the iron ore magnate’s plans.

Mr Palmer joins fellow iron ore entrepreneur Andrew Forrest with his largesse.

In September, Mr Forrest gifted shares and options worth $80 million at the time to his charity, The Australian Children’s Trust.

Mr Palmer said the $100 million was just a start and he proposes giving away $1 billion from wealth he is generating from magnetite deposits in the Pilbara to be developed by Australasian Resources Ltd and Chinese giant CITIC Pacific.

Last year, Mr Forrest also pledged to give away his fortune, currently in the billions of dollars, rather than passing it on to his children.

While Mr Palmer is understood to still be in the process of establishing the foundation to administer his donation, the federal and state governments, as well as the University of Western Australia, have all made specific funding promises to WA’s medical research sector amounting to $230 million, mainly to build facilities.

The state’s medical research sector is considered world class, with notable individuals such as Nobel medicine prize winners Professor Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren, two recent Australians of the year in Professor Fiona Stanley and Dr Fiona Wood, and high profile eye specialist Professor Ian Constable generating significant public profile.

Early last year, the state and UWA each committed $50 million to build facilities for medical research at the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre in Nedlands and the proposed Fiona Stanley Hospital at Murdoch.

In May, the federal government matched that with $100 million for the hubs which will jointly be called the WA Institutes for Health and encompass several important research bodies.

The main beneficiaries will be the WA Institute for Medical Research, the Lions Eye Institute and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.

Last year, the state also earmarked almost $10 million for a clinical trials facility and promised another $20 million in funding to medical research and biotechnology development.

Another beneficiary of assistance is a major population health study at Joondalup which was driven by Professor Lyle Palmer, inaugural chair of epidemiology at UWA and head of the Laboratory of Genetic Epidemiology at the WA Institute for Medical Research.

Professor Palmer said the Joondalup health study – which proposes to be a much bigger version of the successful, three-decades-old old Busselton Health Study – had received commitments of support from IBM and Cerner International worth $25 million.

While the Mineralogy chief’s announcement was news to Professor Palmer, he said the Queensland medical research establishment, more so than here, had benefited immensely in recent years from private donations.

“Queensland has done very well out of private philanthropy,” Professor Palmer said.

In WA, he said things were improving in terms of fund raising outside of government and research grants.

“Mostly we have not got around to asking anyone for money,” Professor Palmer said.

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