“The Viertel Foundation was the making of me,” said blood researcher Professor Benjamin Kile.
Professor Kile had made the first of a series of major discoveries just before he was awarded the Viertel Fellowship in 2008, providing a molecular explanation for why platelets – the tiny blood cells responsible for blood clotting – have a very short lifespan.
Professor Kile said his lab has gone from strength to strength since the Fellowship backed his work in 2009. “It provided a lot of motivation in the sense that you suddenly think ‘wow, these people have recognised something in me and put their faith in me’,” Professor Kile said.
Eight scientists drawn from across Australia volunteer each year to advise the Foundation’s co-trustees to assess applicants like Professor Kile in 2009, who each present a seminar on their current and future work, are interviewed, and have the opportunity over dinner to meet with alumni of the Foundation (previous and current Fellows) and other Foundation members.
“We don’t favour a particular area of science, be it cancer, neuroscience or cardiovascular disease, basic or applied science,” Professor Leedman chair of the Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board said. “What we do fund is exceptional people who do outstanding science,” he said. “If you look back over the years, the Viertel Foundation has developed a very good track record of supporting people who go onto be spectacular scientists.”
“Charles Viertel would be very proud of the achievements and the legacy of his Will. He had a pretty amazing vision and we believe that we are bringing that to fruition. I think over the past 25 years we have delivered in the way he would have wished.
The Sylvia and Charles Viertel Foundation was established in 1992 through the Will of Charles Viertel OBE. As one of 11 children born to a struggling immigrant family in Queensland, Charles became a successful sharemarket investor who, despite amassing considerable personal wealth in his lifetime, led an unassuming life with his wife Sylvia, giving quietly to charities.
Charles left money to several organisations but especially wanted to leave a legacy to make a real difference to medical research in Australia. The Viertel Foundation’s flagship Senior Medical Research Fellowships fill an important gap in funding for post-doctoral scientists on the verge of establishing their own laboratories. In addition, the Foundation supports clinical investigators by offering up to five Clinical Investigator awards annually. These have since benefitted more than 100 researchers. Read more about the 2017 Fellowship recipients here.
The Foundation is overseen by co-trustees, Equity Trustees, George Curphey OAM, Rex Freudenberg, and Justice Debra Mullins, and is now worth more than $170 million: one of the largest charitable foundations in Australia.
Image caption: L2R Professor David Huang, Professor Ben Kile, Dr Axel Kallies, and Professor Marc Pellegrini at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and recipients of the Viertel Fellowship.