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$4.575 million has been committed to support eight Australian researchers – three of which were awarded the prestigious annual Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation Senior Medical Research Fellowships.

This year, the fellowship program was also supported through the Edward Percy Oldham Perpetual Trust.

The funds will help the progress of vital research in the areas of cancer, stem cells, dementia and infection responsiveness.

The 2022 Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellows, who will each receive $1.375 million over five years to support their work, are:

Dr Jaclyn Pearson, Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash University
A/Professor Robert Weatheritt, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Dr Jennifer Zenker, Monash University (Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute)

In addition, five $90,000 one-year clinical investigator awards were provided to:

Dr Hayley Barnes, Monash University
Dr Harriet Gee, Children's Medical Research Institute
Dr Matthew Hare, Menzies School of Health Research
A/Professor Nitesh Nerlekar, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute
Dr Hannah Stevens, Alfred Hospital.

Since establishment, the Viertel Foundation has awarded a total of 61 Senior Medical Research Fellowships and 149 Clinical Investigator awards, ensuring ongoing research for important medical and health conditions, and the treatments needed for them.

“The alumni of the medical research granting program are a showcase of excellence in the pursuit of clinical and therapeutic responses to health and medical conditions affecting millions of people,” said Jodi Kennedy, General Manager of Charitable Trusts and Philanthropy at Equity Trustees. 

“As one of the largest philanthropic funders of medical research in Australia, we are always working with the sector to ensure our funding decisions can make the biggest impact in the health challenges we have now – and ahead of us. That is the power of the legacy left by Sylvia and Charles Viertel.”

Professor Peter Leedman AO, Chairman of the Viertel Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board, said the candidates for 2022 exhibited the talent and commitment which had become the mark of a Viertel Foundation funding recipient.

“Our congratulations go not only to the recipients of this year’s awards, but to all applicants who presented to the Advisory Board in Brisbane at the annual Viertel Symposium in October. We are proud, honoured – and above all, impressed and filled with hope for the future of medical research in Australia when we look at the projects underway and the people who dedicate themselves to this work. Our role through the Foundation is to ensure it can continue,” Professor Leedman said.

Equity Trustees manages the Viertel Foundation and acts as one of the trustees in conjunction with individual trustees Justice Debra Mullins AO (Chair), Paul de Silva and Peter Evans, and is one of Australia’s largest charitable foundations, established with an initial bequest of approximately $60 million. Today the Foundation is worth over $200 million and distributes around $9 million annually.

Alumni of the Senior Medical Fellowships can be found here, and the Clinical Investigators Awards here. More about the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Foundation is available here.


The Senior Medical Fellowships 2022 project details

Beating the superbugs

Dr Jaclyn Pearson, Monash University and Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Antibiotics have been a pillar of modern medicine. However, as decades have progressed, our over-reliance on these ‘miracle drugs’ has seen the rise of resistant ‘superbugs’, creating a situation where deadly infections may again be untreatable. The need to understand how 'superbugs' evolve is now critical. This research will uncover how antibiotic resistance is driving the ability of microbes to cause more severe disease, with the aim of identifying new therapeutic approaches to beat life-threatening superbug infections.

Exploiting P-bodies for cancer treatment

A/Professor Robert Weatheritt, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Cancer remains a disease where there is an urgent need for new therapeutics targeting newly discovered pathways. A/Professor Weatheritt’s work has identified a new biological pathway implicated in chemotherapy resistance, namely P-body formation. ‘P-bodies’ help prevent tumour cells from converting to cancer stem cells which the cause pro-metastatic and chemotherapy-resistant cancer stem cells – and the aim is to work out what drug types and combinations can support P-bodies to their work – which in turn support the effectiveness of other cancer treatments.

Harnessing the power of versatile cells

Dr Jennifer Zenker, Monash University

To meet the challenges of life, a human requires 30 trillion cells (a blue whale, by comparison a staggering 100 quadrillion). A new life, however, begins with a small number of unspecialised cells, called pluripotent stem cells, which develop into highly specialised cells of the adult body, performing a vast range of functions. Dr Zenker’s research aims to find out more about these versatile cells which have the potential to revolutionise regenerative medicine by harnessing and redirecting cells through the use of innovative live imaging and non-invasive light-inducible drugs. 




Alicia Kokocinski
General Manager – Marketing & Communications
03 8623 5396 / 0403 172 024

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