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Snow Centre for Immune Health to revolutionise global immunology research

This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Summer ‘23
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Terry Snow AM, Ginette Snow and Tom Snow photographed side-by-side. Behind them is a banner with logos of Snow Medical, WEHI and The Royal Melbourne Hospital

The Snow Medical Research Foundation (Snow Medical) will establish one of the world’s leading immunology research centres at WEHI through a partnership with an initial commitment of $100 million over 10 years – one of the largest and longest running philanthropic partnerships in Australian history. Further ongoing investments are expected beyond 10 years.

The substantial, long-term funding will allow researchers to pursue a bold and far-sighted research program beyond the short-term funding largely available in Australia. It helps move away from incremental science to solving the grand challenges of immunology. The partnership is people-focused and will support some of Australia’s best scientists and their teams to pursue their visionary and high risk, high reward work that is expected to fundamentally change how immunological diseases are treated.

“We empower bold transformative research across Australia by backing the best and brightest researchers – and resourcing them with the tools they need to be world-class,” Snow Medical Chair Tom Snow said.

“We searched the country to find the best teams with the brightest ideas, and we chose to home this project at WEHI as we are confident it will help transform the lives of so many Australians with immunological disease.”

This $100 million commitment more than doubles Snow Medical’s investment in medical research from $100 million over the four years since 2019 to over $200 million. “This is about our family’s commitment to long-term sustainable positive impact for the community, and it builds on the legacy of the Snow Fellowship program, research funding and other community-based philanthropy. We could not be more proud.”

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Left to right: Snow Medical Research Foundation Founder, Terry Snow AM, Magda Szubanski AO, Snow Medical Research Foundation Chair, Tom Snow, WEHI researcher Dr Lauren Howson.

“Australia has some of the best researchers in the world. We want to get them out of short-term funding cycles and give them freedom to experiment and take risks – we’re here to back them,” said Terry Snow AM, Canberra businessman, philanthropist and Snow Medical founder.

“WEHI researchers have always been known for their outstanding commitment to excellence. They presented us with a bold and ambitious vision for Australian research – they’re going to change the lives of millions of Australians living with immune health issues,” he added.

Through one of the largest and longest running philanthropic partnerships in Australian history, the Snow family will establish a world-leading research centre at WEHI that will revolutionise how we understand and treat immune diseases.

The Snow Centre for Immune Health will be co-led by WEHI and the Royal Melbourne Hospital and will bring together a team of leading Australian and international researchers to transform how we research and treat the immune system.

Debilitating autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis collectively affect up to 10% of the population and are some of our most significant chronic health problems. Treatments for many immunological diseases are limited – many people are treated with blanket approaches, and in some cases treatments don’t exist. Most research globally to-date has focused on a disease by disease, project by project approach, and has frustratingly led to few new treatments.

For the first time globally at a large scale, the Centre will look at immune health and the immune system from a whole-of-system, whole-of-person perspective, to deliver transformational real and measurable impacts for patients living with these debilitating diseases. The Centre will translate discoveries made in the lab to benefits for patients at unprecedented scale and speed.

As well as funding the next generation of exceptional young talented researchers, the Snow Medical partnership will also fund Snow Research Clinics. Initially with founding partner the Royal Melbourne Hospital and then progressively across Victoria. The Snow Research Clinics will allow patients to join immune system trials, while also concurrently treating those most at need with the best and latest research treatments. It will leapfrog Victoria forward to be one of the best places globally to treat immune diseases with the best treatments.

A large group of people is photographed in a laboratory listening to a young researcher speaking
Left to right: Royal Melbourne Hospital Director of Research and Co-Director of the Snow Centre for Immune Health, Professor Jo Douglass, WEHI acting director, Professor Alan Cowman AC, Royal Melbourne Hospital Chief Executive, Professor Shelley Dolan, Snow Medical Research Foundation Founder, Ginette Snow, WEHI Immunology Joint Division Head and Co-Director of the Snow Centre for Immune Health, Professor Phil Hodgkin.

WEHI acting director Professor Alan Cowman AC, said the Snow Centre for Immune Health will completely change the way we view the immune system, with the ambitious aim of revolutionising healthcare delivery to be about proactively predicting and preventing, instead of reacting to and treating, immune illness and disorders.

“While research into immune health has traditionally focused on specific diseases or cells, the Snow Centre for Immune Health will invert this and look at the immune system from a ‘whole-of-system’ perspective – like we do for the cardiovascular and respiratory systems,” he said.

“The Centre will rapidly accelerate this growing field of research and do it at a scale not seen anywhere else in the world.

“We are deeply grateful to the Snow Medical Research Foundation and the Snow family for their vision, boldness and generosity, in backing this talented team and their revolutionary approach to how we understand and treat immune disease.”

Professor Alan Cowman is photographed speaking from a lectern with microphes.
WEHI acting director, Professor Alan Cowman AC.

Former WEHI Director Dr Doug Hilton AO played an instrumental role in co-developing the vision for the Centre with the Snow family.

“This Centre has the potential to entirely change the game when preventing, diagnosing and treating immune disease, which has a tremendous burden on the global community,” he said.

“This extraordinary investment from the Snow Medical Research Foundation has the power to solve some of the greatest puzzles in the human body. The scale of the centre, as well as the long-term backing of some of the brightest scientists in the country by the Snow family, will help accelerate this research for the good of the community.”

Professor Jo Douglass from the Royal Melbourne Hospital who will co-lead the Centre said that the long-term vision and funding from the Snow Medical Research Foundation would ensure her team could move beyond the short-term thinking that currently slows down major research discoveries from being translated.

“The Royal Melbourne Hospital is very proud and honoured to be working with Snow Medical and WEHI on the Snow Centre for Immune Health,” she said.

“The integrated design of the Snow Centre for Immune Health will ensure the best treatments are immediately available to patients in the clinic.”

“This signals a new era of partnership and reflects our shared purpose of building highly impactful and multidisciplinary research, together.  The Royal Melbourne Hospital looks forward to building on its commitment to research excellence for the best of health for all Victorians, the wider community, and beyond.”

Banner image left to right: Snow Medical Research Foundation Founder, Terry Snow AM, Snow Medical Research Foundation Founder, Ginette Snow, Snow Medical Research Foundation Chair, Tom Snow, at the announcement of the Snow Centre for Immune Health. Credit: WEHI

First published on 21 November 2023
This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Summer ‘23
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