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SVI’s Support Group impact touches many

Posted: 27th October 2022

After a three-year hiatus, SVI’s Support Group recently held its ‘comeback’ Black Tie Dinner at The Athenaeum Club. 

“We were very pleased that we could bring everyone back together again,” said Claire O’Callaghan OAM, who has been Chair of the group since its inception in 1989. “We’ve really missed the opportunity to meet the wonderful students we have the privilege of supporting.” 

Top-up Scholarships play a vital role in supporting SVI – relieving the financial pressure on students, providing a morale boost and point of pride, and supporting recruitment of the highest-quality candidates.    

Since the start of 2022, Support Group members and donors have raised more than $100,000, bringing their total amount raised to over $650,000. Their fundraising efforts have supported more than 110 students with Top-Up Scholarships - an outstanding achievement.

Neke Ibeh, a second year PhD student in SVI’s Bioinformatics and Cellular Genomics lab, led by Dr Davis McCarthy, spoke to guests about her journey to becoming a scientist. 

Neke arrived at SVI via Bulgaria and Canada with a Masters degree from the University of Ottawa and 6 years of subsequent experience working at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. 

“I sought out a PhD opportunity that would be both challenging and fulfilling. One that would take me outside of my comfort zone but equip me with the right tools to truly contribute towards advancing medical research. For all of these reasons, SVI was the perfect choice,” said Neke. 

Neke thanked the guests at the dinner on behalf of all of SVI’s Top-up Scholarship recipients: “I just wanted to say thank you all, sincerely, for your generosity. Your donations are an integral part of the research that we conduct at SVI, and we, the students, are so fortunate to benefit from this scholarship fund. Thank you for all that you’ve given us!” 

Even during the past two years without a dinner event, the Support Group’s fundraising has supported numerous scholars, and we are extremely grateful for this extra effort in difficult times. 

“SVI would like to acknowledge all those who have donated to scholarships at the Institute, and especially thank the SVI Support Group for their many years of support,” says Prof Tom Kay. “Showing these young researchers they are valued provides them with even more motivation to make discoveries with impact.” 

About Neke’s PhD project 

Ethnic diversity is a massive challenge in analysing the human genome. “More than 80 per cent of the data used as a comparator in genomic research – the ‘reference genome’ – is typically Caucasian,” says Neke. 

“If you come from another ethnic group, your genome will be much harder to analyse – markers might get misinterpreted or even missed altogether.”  

Neke’s work is helping to change this, by investigating and documenting some of the huge genetic diversity within the world’s fourth largest population: Indonesia. Indonesia is known cross-roads in human diversity, with multiple waves of migration of modern humans starting around 72,000 years ago.  

“In the jigsaw puzzle of human genetics, Indonesia is largely a gap,” says Neke. “I’ll be investigating a well-documented set of 120 blood samples from across the Indonesian archipelago, spanning the genetic ancestry of homo sapiens in the region.”  

Neke’s deep computer analysis of genomic data from the blood samples will help identify markers for disease risk, as well as normal healthy variation in genetics among the Indonesian population.  

If you would like more information on how you can support the Top-up Scholarships program, please contact:  
Josie Verga  
Philanthropy Manager  
St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research  
Email:  [email protected]  
Mobile:  0421 508 525