Support SVI and history in the making

Posted: 26th April 2018

It’s a statistical fact.  We are living longer…and with better quality of life as we age. 

Sixty years ago, when St Vincent's Institute (SVI) first opened its doors, life expectancy for Australian males was 67.1 years, and for females, 72.8 years of age.  Today, that has climbed to 80.4 years and 84.6 respectively.

This gift of more than an extra decade of life is thanks largely to the fruits of medical research.

Just as the extraordinary discoveries of the past and the promising research currently underway here at the Institute are the legacy of legendary racehorse trainer, Jack Holt. 

When he died in 1951, Jack made an extraordinary gesture. He bequeathed £200,000 (around $81 million) to establish a school of medical research, now St Vincent’s Institute.

The medical breakthroughs that have occurred throughout the world since the Institute opened on 23 April 1958 are truly astonishing.  Among them: the pacemaker, IVF and the invention of CPR.  Medical research gifted us discoveries that led to development of the cochlear implant; surgical advances such as organ transplants, and life-saving antiviral drugs. Jack lived in an era when infectious diseases such as polio and tuberculosis still posed major health risks. Thanks to medical research, you and I and those we love are fortunate to live in an era of constant medical discoveries being made at an increasingly rapid pace.

Commonplace today, but undreamed of in Jack Holt’s day, we live in a world of tissue engineering, stem cell therapy, DNA fingerprinting and surgical robotics.

Over the past 60 years, researchers at SVI have contributed much to the rapid advancement of medical research.

  • In 2007, scientists within our labs enabled the first Victorian islet transplant for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.  Thanks to this revolutionary procedure, many of those treated are now no longer dependent on insulin injections.
  • Our world-leading research in visualising the structures of pore-forming toxins from bacteria has provided exciting new insights into how diphtheria and anthrax toxins work.
  • Our researchers discovered a number of the locally produced factors that control the growth of bone cells, leading to a much greater understanding of diseases such as osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and the spread of cancer to bone.
  • It was also researchers within our Institute who pioneered studies into the structure of a protein that may play a role in the development of novel drugs with the potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The Institute’s research has also led to world-first discoveries with the potential to advance treatment of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and bone disease.

And Chris, from Sydney, is one father who is desperately hoping that your support for a unique stream of research being conducted within our labs will bear fruit sooner rather than later.

Chris’ daughter Amelia was diagnosed with Fanconi Anaemia, a rare genetic disease, at 23 years of age.  Our Institute is the only research institute in the nation with a team of researchers dedicated to unlocking the mystery of this devastating disease.

We can fully appreciate his desperate search for answers, and mostly, for hope.  When someone you know or love is battling a life-threatening disease or illness, you hold on to hope for a breakthrough, a new treatment, and ultimately a cure.

Medical research holds the key to that hope - and medical research is on the cusp of many exciting breakthroughs.  More targeted and precise therapies for everything from cancer to diabetes…next generation drug treatments…even more sophisticated technologies.  Advances we cannot yet imagine.

Together, let us continue to make history: by unlocking more medical mysteries in the lab, to translate to better and longer lives for us all, and for future generations.