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Author: Don Magin

Lessons from Greater investment in research: From little things big things grow for community

Greater CEO Don Magin writes on the value of investment in local medical research and the positive flow-on effects for society.

When I heard late last month that a company was taking some Hunter medical research further than any other local research has ever been taken I was reminded of the song “From Little Things Big Things Grow” by Australian legends Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody.

Australian company Viralytics plans to use $27M worth of global institutional investment to conduct one UK and two US clinical trials before commercialisation of its anti-cancer drug, Cavatak. Read more and see a video on the research here.

The drug has been developed out of research that was initially looking at cures for the common cold by local researchers at Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI). The research was kick-started with funding from Greater Building Society almost 15 years ago. It is now potentially among the most significant immunotherapy drugs developed for the treatment of melanoma over the past decade. The backing by healthcare analysts of the $27M investment plan is the highest level of recognition achieved by a HMRI project to date. Fifteen researchers are now involved in the drug’s development.

It was in 1998 that then CEO of Greater Building Society, John Arnold, met a young researcher called Darren Shafren who was researching cures for the common cold. I remember John telling me he this sort of research was important for the community and should be supported by business. A follow up meeting was held and the Greater Building Society agreed to help fund a young researcher award as well as funding for research. The Greater is proud to be an inaugural sponsor of HMRI. This is a partnership which has seen The Greater (and now its Charitable Foundation) provide a total of around $1.5 million on behalf of its customers to support the great local research being done at HMRI. Greater Charitable Foundation funding is now supporting research being done by HMRI’s Stroke team.

There are three lessons for us all in this story.

  • Firstly, Hunter businesses and the community should continue to get behind the great local research being undertaken at HMRI and other organisations. HMRI is attracting top class researchers and medical practitioners to regional NSW rather than capital cities, which benefits the community and the economy. As the Hunter continues its transformation from Steel City it is vital we continue to develop our region as the clever, innovative region as well as the resource rich region.
  • Secondly, it pays to think outside the square and be open to new ideas and tangents. The idea that from researching cures for the common cold a treatment for melanoma can be uncovered is so novel.
  • Thirdly, it pays to think big. There is no reason to think that the Hunter can’t be the birthplace of concepts, ideas or products that have positive global impacts or even change the world. On a much smaller scale The Greater had an experience of thinking big a few years back when we enlisted Jerry Seinfeld to help raise the profile of the Greater as a competitor to the ever increasingly dominant major banks.
People said there was no way a global celebrity would say yes to a Hunter building society. But he did!

It is very rewarding to see home-grown research that the Greater Building Society helped to kick-start be taken to the next level of clinical trials and closer to commercialisation. More importantly, it is exciting that this Hunter idea has the potential to help many people locally and worldwide. One of the important objectives of customer-owned financial institutions such as the Greater Building Society is to put its profits back into helping customers and the local community. This was a good investment of our profits on behalf of our customers. From little things big things grow...

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