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Equity Trustees is ensuring medical research and health philanthropic funding has the greatest impact possible.

Medical research plays a key role underpinning the health of Australians, yet the sector faces fundamental challenges.

A large proportion of innovative research remains stuck in its early stages while health policy is often divorced from evidence. Early career research opportunities are limited while women remain under-represented, particularly at senior levels. 

Equity Trustees is changing the situation by taking a strategic approach to medical research and health, ensuring philanthropic funding has the greatest impact possible.

Last financial year, 27 grants were distributed from Medical Research & Health focus area – one of five key areas that forms Equity Trustees’ Deepening Community Impact program. 

These grants helped to accelerate the innovation pipeline, enable the translation of evidence into better health services, and to support equal opportunity for under-represented groups in medical research.

The benefits of providing long-term capital 

Monash Partners, which connects researchers, clinicians and the community to innovate for better health, is one of the organisations receiving ongoing, long-term funding through Equity Trustees’ Medical Research & Health focus.

Monash Partners is working to improve lives as well as support the career development of female clinical academics, clinicians and early to mid-career researchers. In addition, it aids research that translates into better health into various diseases and conditions, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), heart disease and cancer. 

“Thanks to the vision and insightful approach of Equity Trustees, we have translated a wide range of innovative research projects designed to transform research into efficient delivery of our healthcare dollars to directly benefit patients,” Monash Partners Executive Director, Professor Helena Teede, said last October, when Equity Trustees announced an additional $3.4m funding across three organisations.

Long-term funding is also allowing the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation (NFMRI) to support research focused on cancer and Alzheimer’s disease that would otherwise not be funded.

“This funding expands upon our pilot partnership with Equity Trustees, which helped NFMRI to achieve a 62% success rate in projects attracting next-step partners and leveraging a total of over $45 million in external funding,” Dr Noel Chambers, NFMRI CEO, said.

The Mater Foundation is also receiving funding to continue research focused on adult and paediatric immune responses to cancers under the direction of Dr Camille Guilerey, and childhood disease and welfare progression by Associate Professor Kym Rae.

“Equity Trustees ongoing support of Mater Foundation enables a wide range of research initiatives to be maintained and built upon over the next three years,” said Mater Foundation Executive Director, Andrew Thomas. 

“In particular, we are able to support the career progression of two remarkable research leaders through the Outstanding Women in Research Award.”

Three programs focus funding and create maximum impact

The Medical Research & Health focus area is split across three programs:

The Medical Research & Health Partner Program (which is fulfilled by the NFMRI, Monash Partners, and the Mater Foundation described above)
The Mason Foundation National Medical Program, which focuses on myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)
And a number of charitable trusts managed by Equity Trustees which fund hospitals and research institutions specifically named in the various underlying trusts.

The Mason Foundation is one of the few organisations focused on finding more effective treatments for ME/CFS, which causes fatigue that worsens with activity. It was established in 2003 thanks to the generosity of Judith Jane Mason (nee Williams), who suffered from ME/CFS.

The Foundation provides grants up to $100,000 per annum (for up to three years) to researchers engaged in ME/CFS research. You can read more on page 33 of Equity Trustees’ 2020 Giving Review.

How we’re shaping the impact of our philanthropy

Equity Trustees is one of Australia’s oldest and most respected philanthropic and wealth management firms, acting as steward across more than $2.6bn in charitable funds. 

However, giving away money effectively remains a challenge and when measuring social impact, activity alone is not enough. 

The structure of our Medical Research & Health focus was set in 2018, when we embarked on a new journey towards impact and responsible stewardship.  We made a commitment to learn, grow and deepen our connection with clients and our community.  

We started by developing a Blueprint for Deepening Community Impact

This blueprint, developed in collaboration with consultancy Think Impact, provided us with a framework for mapping where and how we need to make changes, and how we measure whether our funding has been effective.  

Each year of the journey, we have captured and shared our learnings in an Annual Giving Review.  The 2021 review can be found here.

The blueprint and the instructions our families and testators have left for us has led to us focusing our efforts to create five key focus areas in our Deepening Community Impact program:

Children and Young People – Enabling young people to have opportunities for great futures 
Ageing and Aged Care -Ensuring people age well and die well
Medical Research & Health – Focussed on equitable health outcomes are achieved for all Australians 
Animals and Environment – Working towards a thriving and sustainable natural environment thrives
Sector Capacity Building Fund – Supporting the for-purpose sector to be strong and vigorous. 

You can also read more about our previous work around other key areas such as enhancing Sector Capacity and the thoughtful strategies supporting Children & Young People.