Connection inspires a desire to donate

Connection inspires a desire to donate

Illuminate newsletter header, Spring 2021
September 2021

Dr Joanne Hildebrand
Innovation Grant recipient Dr Joanne Hildebrand said
the donation had helped her to progress her research and
led to an unexpected finding.

First-hand insight into medical research was what inspired Ruth Cafarella and her husband Robert to become WEHI donors.

Ruth, a WEHI alumna, worked as a technical assistant with Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller in the 1960s and said she loved the workplace culture and people she worked with. 

“It was a very happy workplace, with great job satisfaction,” she said. 

After reconnecting with the WEHI community many years after she had left, Ruth and Robert were inspired to give back to medical research. 

The couple has made many donations to WEHI’s Innovation Grants program in recent years. 

The program supports early-career researchers who scored highly in their Australian National Health and Medical Research Council grant applications but narrowly missed out on funding. 

Robert said he was pleased to be able to help researchers continue to make vital discoveries. 

“Following an idea through from discovery to translating that discovery into a new medicine is an incredibly complex and time-consuming process. These grants allow researchers to produce more work, so hopefully they will be successful in their next grant application,” Robert said. 

Innovation Grant recipient Dr Joanne Hildebrand said the funding had enabled her to continue a project that looked at how cells are programmed to die when they are infected by viruses and bacteria. 

“This grant has made it possible for us to rapidly progress this project,” she said. 

“One unexpected finding from this research is that a gene change that is carried by one to two per cent of the population can reduce the ability of the immune system to recover after radiation therapy, in preclinical models. This could have important implications for patient care and the pre-screening of suitable bone marrow donors.” 

Dr Hildebrand said the grants enabled worthy research projects to progress that would otherwise not be funded. 

“These grants are incredibly important as they provide much-needed funds, as well as renewed hope and enthusiasm, to researchers. This recognition of our work has inspired us to keep persisting with our efforts and has led to an exciting and unexpected new research direction that would never have otherwise been realised.” 

Robert said he and Ruth were pleased to know their contribution might result in a medical advancement in the future. 

“For every step forward in medical research there may be two steps backwards, but you always learn something and the findings from these projects may help researchers make the next major breakthrough,” he said.

To donate to WEHI

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