Ramaciotti Foundations: 50 Years of Philanthropy

It started with the generosity of one woman – Vera Ramaciotti

That generosity – and the dedication and genius of countless doctors, researchers and scientists – has improved health and lives both in Australia and around the world.

Crucially, that initial gift of $6.7 million back in 1970 was given ‘in perpetuity’ and thanks to intelligent, careful investing has grown to be worth more than $61 million today. It has funded a wide range of projects, including many that might not have received support from other sources.

For 50 years, the Ramaciotti Foundations have been expanding biomedical research. As trustee, Perpetual is proud to celebrate and honour their achievements – and to help carry on Vera Ramaciotti’s vision for decades to come.

Driving 50 years of advances in biomedical research

  • Ramaciotti in the 1970s – a healthy first decade

  • The 1980s – growing impact

  • The 1990s – power of scale

  • The 2000s – medicines, millenniums, millions

  • The 2010s – biomedical innovation

  • The 2020 Recipients

In 1970, using funds from the sale of her family’s property holdings (including Sydney’s Theatre Royal), Vera Ramaciotti gifts $6.7 million to create the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Foundations. The Foundations result in the establishment of the Ramaciotti Awards to support pioneering biomedical research.

In 1971, the first major grant assists with the establishment of a new building called the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Research Laboratories at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne. Vera’s decision to set up the Foundations was partly influenced by the strong family link with the Hall family and their philanthropic attitude, the same Hall family that carries the name of the institute that received the first funding from the Ramaciotti Foundations. 

In what proves to be a crucial early decision, the Foundations create a Scientific Advisory Committee to guide decision making, maintain the integrity of the grant process and adapt giving over time to ensure grants remain relevant and target areas where other sources of funding may not go.  

In 1976 Professor Janet McCredie uses a grant from the Ramaciotti Foundations to continue her work on Neural Crest Injury – a field vital to the understanding of birth defects.

In 1978 Professor Graeme Clark AC receives a Ramaciotti grant at a crucial stage in his research. It’s a small grant but one large enough for him to retain a key engineer. His multi-channel cochlear implant eventually helps hundreds of thousands of deaf people around the world.

During the 1970s, the Ramaciotti Foundations fund vital research in bone cells, blood growth factors, thalidomide, diabetes and more. By the end of the decade the Ramaciotti Foundations are funding more than 275 research projects in Australia. 

In 1982 Vera Ramaciotti dies but the impact of her Foundations widen. Thanks to intelligent investing over a long time-frame (and the power of compound returns) by 1989, the Ramaciotti Foundations have already given away more money than they were established with – and are making grants of over a million dollars a year.

In 1981 The Ramaciotti Foundations are the source of Professor Christopher Parish’s first external research grant. His work provides theoretical foundations for new cancer drugs. Professor Parish went on to receive the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in 2005.

Professor Chris Parish
Photo courtesy of Prof Christopher Parish
“The Ramaciotti Foundations played an important role in supporting my early research on complex carbohydrates, research that eventually led to the development of the anti-cancer drug, PI-88. At that time, my carbohydrate research was unfashionable and controversial, but the Foundations were willing to provide my laboratory with seed funding that helped me advance my research in this new area." Professor Christopher Parish (November 2005)

In the mid-80s, funding support from the Ramaciotti Foundations helps Professor Rob Sutherland FAA AO, a globally renowned giant of cancer research to establish a cell culture facility for cancer research at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. Today there are more than 180 cancer researchers at Garvan. Professor Sutherland went on to receive the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in 2000.

Rob Sutherland
Photo courtesy of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research
“The Ramaciotti Foundations’ continued support of Australian biomedical research is invaluable in ensuring we remain internationally competitive.”
The late Professor Rob Sutherland FAA AO (quoted in 2000)

In the 1990s, funding from the Ramaciotti Foundations helps expand knowledge of the brain and nervous system. Growing fund returns enable the launch of the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence, supporting further research by previous grant recipients. At decade’s end, the Ramaciotti Foundations are granting around $1.5 million a year.

In 1995 Professor John Coghlan (a specialist in molecular biology and hormone production in cells) wins the inaugural Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence. His work is used in fields as wide as foetal development, cancers and hypertension. In 1997 Professor Coghlan was appointed to the Ramaciotti Foundations’ Scientific Advisory Committee.

“The reason no one dies in Australia of diseases like polio and measles is because of research. That’s why encouraging medical research through the Awards is so important.”
The late Professor John Coghlan AO

In 1998 Professor Elspeth McLachlan becomes the first woman to win the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence. It supports her work on neural pathways in the autonomic nervous system, improving treatments for spinal and nerve damage.

Ramaciotti Medal

The strong performance of the Foundations allows them to support research at an institutional level. In 2001, the inaugural Ramaciotti Foundations Biomedical Research Award of $1 million is granted to the Alfred Hospital and Baker Research Institute to fund proteomic and genomic research.

In 2008, Professor Ian Frazer AC wins the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence for his work contributing to the development of the world’s first cervical cancer vaccines. Professor Frazer first received Ramaciotti funding in 1989. 

In 2009, the Foundations provide $1 million for a joint research team at the Children’s Medical Research Institute and The University of Newcastle to establish the world’s first Centre for Kinomics. The hubs (based at both organisations) can be accessed by research teams across NSW to analyse current therapeutic drugs and develop more effective new ones.

“Receiving this funding means that people suffering from a range of conditions will benefit, because scientists from all over the state will have access to this equipment for a broad range of research projects.”
Professor Phillip Robinson (November 2009)

By the end of the 2000s the value of the Ramaciotti Foundations had grown to more than $50 million.

The 2010s recognise the strength of female researchers to biomedical research in Australia. Professor Kathryn North AC, Professor Carola Vinuesa, Professor Jane Visvader and Professor Susan Clark are all recognised through the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence.

In 2015, the $1 million Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award is granted to Professor David Craik of The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience and Professor Marilyn Anderson of the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science. The grant helps support research into producing pharmaceuticals from plants. This initial funding from the Ramaciotti Foundations has helped The University of Queensland and its partners receive additional funding of $35 million to establish the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Innovations in Peptide and Protein Science.

“We are thrilled to receive the Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award for our work on using plants as ‘biofactories’ for producing next-generation pharmaceuticals….this type of blue-sky research falls outside the realm of work typically funded by government or industry so we are particularly grateful to the Ramaciotti Foundations for their support.”
Professor David Craik (October 2015)

A further example of this innovative approach is the 2019 Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award of $1 million to the Menzies School of Health Research. The funding has created the Ramaciotti Regional and Remote Health Sciences Training Centre which will focus on creating a local and Indigenous biomedical workforce in northern Australia. The Centre currently has 24 youth engaged in training including youth from the most remote parts of the Northern Territory.

Having the Ramaciotti name behind this Centre will help Menzies [School of Health Research] build capacity in the delivery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health staff and develop a model which can be implemented beyond the Northern Territory.”
Associate Professor Heidi Smith-Vaughan (October 2019)

By the end of 2019, the Ramaciotti Foundations had distributed over $61 million for biomedical research - often to projects not easily funded from other sources. 

Ed Ramaciotti FacilityEd Ramaciotti Facility

Photo courtesy of The University of Queensland

Ed Ramaciotti Facility

The Centre is delivering real-world opportunities to young people from across the Northern Territory. Raelene Collins, picture here, completed her lab-based traineeship and is now undertaking a Nursing degree. She has also graduated to our Centre’s cadet program which supports her with casual employment while studying. Photo courtesy of the Menzies School of Health Research.

Meet the 2020 recipients
This year’s awards include joint recipients of the 2020 Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence and a total of seven Health Investment Grants to support early career researchers.

Find out more about this year’s Ramaciotti recipients – and their research.

Inspired to create your own legacy?

Whatever the cause or organisation you care about, if you’re interested in philanthropy that makes a lasting difference in the world you can get started now and see the difference it makes. But also know that your gift can do good after you’re gone. Talk to Perpetual about sustainable long-term giving now.

Privacy laws apply to our handling of personal information and we collect, use and disclose your personal information in accordance with our privacy policy. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Perpetual Philanthropic Services are provided by Perpetual Trustee Company Limited (PTCo), ABN 42 000 001 007, AFSL 236643. This publication has been prepared by PTCo and may contain information contributed by third parties. It contains general information only and is not intended to provide you with advice or take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider, with a financial adviser, who can provide you with the relevant Financial Services Guide, whether the information is suitable for your circumstances. The information is believed to be accurate at the time of compilation and is provided by PTCo in good faith.  To the extent permitted by law, no liability is accepted for any loss or damage as a result of any reliance on this information. PTCo does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any wording in this document which was contributed by a third party. Any views expressed in this document are opinions of the author at the time of writing and do not constitute a recommendation to act. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.