The powerful virtues of Medical Research: pioneering the future at Canterbury Medical Research Foundation
To a large extent, the longer life expectancy we enjoy owes to pioneers of modern medicine in our midst. Canterbury Medical Research Foundation is one of eight research organisations playing this vital role in New Zealand. It is second only to Auckland in size.
Focused on transitional science, to identify a very clear nexus between what’s being done in the field of research and the outcome for the patient, the real ethos of the foundation is around legacy – what it can do to make a better life for future generations and in turn, ensure less suffering for people with chronic illness and their families.
While trying to reduce the bureaucracy that frustrates so many in the field, the foundation’s assessment process for its research is no less rigorous than any other. “The key is that we are not just some faceless funding agency; we develop a meaningful relationship with those we support,” CEO Kate Russell says. “With the likes of the Universities of Canterbury and Otago, we feel a great deal of responsibility, friendship and goodwill towards them, because they are doing a brilliant job.”
An important part of Canterbury Medical Research Foundation’s remit focuses on health issues important to New Zealanders and those with a local relevance to Christchurch such as depression and anxiety, particularly post-quakes. “We also support the ADHD work of Dr Julia Rucklidge at University of Canterbury, Prof Frank Frizzell and his team working on colorectal research and so many others. The work of our own NZ Brain Research Institute is an important part of what we do.
“The Brain ‘Centre of Research Excellence’ (CoRE) that our institute participates in, has been given a very clear focus – to push the beginnings of cognitive decline out by five years. Most people, if they live long enough, will experience some level of cognitive decline, so if we can delay this, it affects the whole trajectory of the disease.”
One of the main reasons it exists is to fill a very important gap. “We are niche funders who commit to small and interesting projects to help them become large and interesting projects.
“The reason Professor Don Bevan started our foundation is because we have a huge hospital base here, a medical school and the University of Canterbury. We have a lot of lovely, young, bright minds fresh out of study with their PhD, and if they are not supported or given opportunities, they go overseas and we risk permanently losing that intellectual capital.”
With $1.6 million given away annually by Canterbury Medical Research Foundation and a goal to give away $2 million annually by 2020, Russell says the foundation wishes to sincerely thank all its generous donors.
“We have been so blessed in the generous bequests received. A lot of people think, ‘I don’t donate because surely they are only interested in big donors’, but actually, it is our hundreds and hundreds of small donors who give us what they can that helps us push our reserves up. There are a lot of worthy charities in New Zealand and we’re so thankful because the only reason we can do all of this is because of our generous community.”
Tomorrow – 16 March – Canterbury Medical Research Foundation is partnering with the Cancer Society for its annual Russley Golf Club Tournament. Also on the agenda this year, is its annual Wine and Art Auction where $100,000 is guaranteed to be raised to support a selected project. Applications for project funding have also just closed, so keep an eye out for further news.