May 1, 2016

From the CEO’s desk: New research funding announced by Lung Foundation Australia

Dear Readers,

I am writing my CEO message from Perth where I am attending the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) annual conference. The TSANZ conference is always an excellent opportunity for the Lung Foundation to reconnect with the clinical and research community that makes such a difference to the lives of those affected by lung disease. One of the most important activities in which we are involved is our presentation of the annual Lung Foundation Australia research awards. These awards are funded by the Lung Foundation through the support of some of our corporate partners (Boehringer Ingelheim and A Menarini) and many very generous families and other donors.

The role of the Lung Foundation in supporting research is critical. Compared to other disease areas, research into lung disease is very poorly supported. For example, approximately 7.5 per cent of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) research funding goes to respiratory research, despite the fact that respiratory disease is responsible for 10 per cent of the health burden and 14 per cent of all deaths. Additionally, only five per cent of tumour specific funding goes to lung cancer, even though lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer and kills more people than breast, ovarian and prostate cancer combined.

The Lung Foundation Board has identified as a key priority the need to bridge this gap both through advocacy and our own fundraising activities. The Board has set the ambitious goal that by 2020, the Lung Foundation will be contributing $5 million annually to support research – via research awards and research platforms, including our lung cancer trials groups and our IPF and bronchiectasis registries.

2016 will see us take a significant step in that direction. As a result of our fundraising and collaborative work with universities and research institutes, the Lung Foundation will award $698,000 in direct funding to promising researchers. This is an increase of 70 per cent over last year. At the TSANZ conference, Lung Foundation Chair,
Prof Christine Jenkins, presented our established annual awards. For details of all the award winners visit
www.lungfoundation.com.au/previous-research-awards/.

We also announced several new multi-year awards:

  • The David Wilson PhD Scholarship in IPF – thanks to the support of the Wilson family, the Lung Foundation, in collaboration with the Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Consortium, will support eight three-year PhDs (each worth $90,000 over three years) aimed at increasing our understanding of IPF.
  • David Serisier Memorial Award for Translational Research in Bronchiectasis – funded through generous donations made by Dr Serisier’s colleagues, patients, family and friends following his tragic death last year. $1,000 will be provided to the best oral or poster presentation in bronchiectasis or respiratory infection
    at the TSANZ conference. The fund will support this award for the next 20-25 years.
  • Lung Foundation PhD Scholarships in Lung Cancer – our Lung Cancer National Program will fund three new three-year PhD scholarships (each worth $90,000). This augments four existing PhD scholarships supported by a donation from the Bantoft family.
  • Deep Manchanda Lung Cancer Fellowship ($360,000 over two years) – thanks to the generous support of the Manchanda family, in memory of Deep Manchanda, the Lung Foundation will support eight two-year fellowships over the next 16 years. The University of Newcastle (under the leadership of Prof Phil Hansbro) will match the Lung Foundation funding of $180,000 for the first of the two-year fellowships, taking the value of this first award to $360,000.

The Lung Foundation and the TSANZ have also launched a collaborative initiative, Lungs for Life: Breathing Life into Respiratory Research aimed at increasing the amount of research funding into lung disease. In launching the initiative, both Prof Christine Jenkins and TSANZ President, Prof Peter Gibson called on the respiratory and wider community to support the initiative.

I am proud of the additional support the Lung Foundation is able to provide to researchers who collectively will make a difference in the lives of those living with lung disease. We would not be able to do this without the support of our corporate partners and generous donors. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.

Heather Allan