Queensland philanthropists have contributed close to $2 million to better understand learning and memory, in a quest to find a cure for dementia.
The funds, generously donated by Freemasons Queensland, The University of Queensland Endowment Fund (UQef) and Brisbane local, Robyn Hilton, will be used to establish fellowships at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute’s (QBI).
The contribution was be formally recognised by the Honourable Ian Walker, MP, Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts at a celebratory event in Sandgate today.
The QLD Freemasons Senior Research Fellowship in Learning and Memory will fund an outstanding researcher over a period of five years.
The $1.4 million fellowship, jointly funded by the charitable arm of the Freemasons Queensland, the Board of Benevolence of Aged Masons, Widows and Orphans’ Fund, and UQef, a private fund established by Wotif.com founders Andrew Brice and Graeme Wood, will include the establishment and support of the fellow’s laboratory.
Also joining QBI in 2014 will be the Peter Hilton Research Fellow.
The Peter Hilton Research Fellowship in Ageing Dementia has been established in honour of the late Peter Hilton by his wife Robyn.
“Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in February 2000, at the age of 66 after retiring from his career in law,” Mrs Hilton said.
Mrs Hilton, like many touched by dementia, says the impact of the diagnosis is profound.
“Some time after the initial shock of the diagnosis, you start to feel helpless because there’s no known cure, there’s no timetable for the inevitable cognitive decline, there’s little effective medical treatment,” she said.
Mrs Hilton says dealing with Alzheimer’s disease is very much a matter of “feeling your way in the fog”.
“Each case is unique, depending on the type of dementia, the personality of the sufferer, which part of the brain is primarily affected.”
The $500,000 fellowship will support an outstanding early-career researcher for five years based at CJCADR.
The primary role of the Peter Hilton Research Fellow will be to explore the interface between biological and physical research in memory and learning, how these functions are disrupted in dementia, and develop procedures to test and manage these dysfunctions.
“I knew QBI was conducting valuable research into brain diseases, including dementia.
“To have a centre dedicated to researching ageing dementia highlights the obvious need for research in this field,” Mrs Hilton said.
“After attending the opening of the Centre in February this year I felt it was a cause I could commit to, and one I know Peter would have supported.”
“To this end, I’m delighted that the Peter Hilton Research Fellowship has been established.”
Mr Hilton died in June 2011 from complications associated with Alzheimer’s disease.