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The James N Kirby Foundation was established by the late Sir James Kirby in 1967. Today, overseen by the third generation of Kirbys, it has a significant impact on the lives of Australians across the areas of education and technology, the environment, health, social welfare and the arts.

The James N Kirby Foundation has been a long-term supporter of HRI, donating a total of $355,400 in grants since HRI was founded in 1989. In our early days, the Foundation even hosted us in their office before we had our own premises. In particular, the James N Kirby Foundation has invested in research that has the future potential to transform lives, but is not yet competitive for larger, governmental grants.

Currently, the Foundation is supporting the work of Assoc Prof John O’Sullivan and the Cardiometabolic Disease Group into why Aboriginal Australians are more vulnerable to a new “stiff” type of heart failure where the heart cannot relax properly after squeezing. This has become the most common type of heart failure in Australia. Aboriginal Australians are disproportionately affected, as they both have a much greater lifetime risk of diabetes – a known risk factor – and are 12 times more likely to die a preventable death from complications of diabetes such as heart failure. We are analysing 1000 data samples donated by Aboriginal Australians to look at their heart’s energy usage and identify substances their hearts may be deficient in. The James N Kirby Foundation has donated $10,000 towards equipment which will allow us to test our findings in lab models.

Amongst their considerable past support, the James N Kirby Foundation was the first organisation to support the HRI’s multi-functional nanomedicine platform. The funding enabled us to take this blue-sky idea to a point where we proved the safety of our nanoparticles in the laboratory and combined them with an agent to target inflammation as a potential treatment for peripheral artery disease (the reason people with diabetes often suffer limb loss). The platform could also be used to develop treatments for a range of other major diseases including heart attack, breast cancer and type 1 diabetes. You can read more about this project and its outcomes in the James N Kirby Foundation’s 2018 annual review, which can be accessed here.

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