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Macular disease funding bequest opens doors for blue sky thinking

A new stream of funding for ‘blue sky’ macular disease research is now available for early-career researchers after a woman who cared for her visually impaired father bequeathed a major sum to the Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA).

The organisation announced the new Grant Family Fund on World Sight Day on 8 October, in addition to a pool of $1 million to support the best Australian researchers working towards curing macular diseases.

The fund is named after Mr Ronald Grant, who lived with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and his daughter Ms Faye Grant, who was his primary carer. She made a substantial bequest to MDFA when she passed away in 2019 at the age of 59.

It will provide $100,000 for creative and innovative projects by early-career Australian researchers. MDFA expects to award two grants of $50,000 for one-year projects commencing in 2021.

Faye and her father, Ronald Grant.

“This new biennial grant opportunity will give preference to cutting-edge areas and approaches in macular disease research that require seed funding investment,” MDFA CEO Ms Dee Hopkins said.

“We will use the Grant Family Fund to back highly innovative small-to-medium scale research projects for a year. These will be projects that show potential for future funding by granting bodies, in accordance with the principles of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).”

Faye’s sister Janette Forrester said she felt Faye would have liked the thought of funding young researchers with her bequest.

“In discussing it with MDFA, we thought that the research fund was the best way to use Faye’s bequest,” Forrester said.

Hopkins said that as well as the funding stream for early-career researchers, a pool of $1 million is also on offer as part of MDFA’s latest round of funding through the Research Grants Program.

MDFA has committed more than $4.1 million to Australian researchers since 2011. Chairman Mr Robert Kaye said this year’s additional $1 million investment to support research will be welcomed by Australian researchers and universities during these difficult economic times.

“This $1 million investment also makes MDFA the largest non-government source of research funds for macular disease in Australia. This commitment is in line with the National Strategic Action Plan for Macular Disease, which outlines Australia’s national response to macular disease and informs how limited health care resources can be better coordinated,” Kaye said.

“Our aim continues to be to support the best research that works to reduce the incidence and impact of macular disease, and ultimately find better treatments and cures.”

Applications for funding opened on 8 October and the successful applicants will be announced during Macula Month in May 2021.

More reading: MDFA brings forward research grant applications date