The Rebecca L. Cooper Medical Research Foundation is a registered and self-funded charity which has as its object, the advancing, promoting and encouraging of medical research in Australia.
The Foundation was inaugurated on 13 January 1984 with the purpose of promoting, encouraging and advancing medical research in Australia. This has been achieved through the provision of over $22.1 million in grants, scholarships, fellowships, symposia and awards, to date.
The original five directors included Mrs Rebecca Lillian Cooper, who in her Will of the same date endowed the Foundation. The other directors were the late Mr Kevin Cahill who was her solicitor, the late Mr Al Rosenstrauss OAM, her real estate and business manager, Dr Nick Gregory, her GP and Dr Tom Cromer, an endocrinologist. Dr Cromer has served as a director ever since and is the Foundation’s current chairman.
Mrs Cooper died on 29 April 1984, bequeathing one hundred and five properties to the Foundation. The majority of these properties comprised terrace houses scattered through the inner suburbs of Sydney. They were predominantly located in the prestigious suburbs of Woollahra, Paddington and Bondi Junction. In 2004, the Foundation’s original endowment was supplemented when John Haddon bequeathed his estate to the Foundation. The annual income derived from the Foundation’s property portfolio has steadily increased from below $80,000 in 1984 to more than $3 million at present.
A large portion of the Foundation’s income has been used to upgrade the properties which were inherited in very poor repair, with many being dilapidated and derelict. With the accelerated income return that this work provides and the determination of the current Directors to broaden the Foundation’s asset base, the Foundation is taking steps to ensure that a larger proportion of our income will be available to the medical research fraternity.
In 1984, two grants were awarded totalling $9,640. Seven years later, the Foundation had awarded a cumulative total exceeding $1million in grants and in 2012 grants exceeded $1 million per annum for the first time. This year, a total of $1.5 million has been allocated to fund 24 grants, 4 PhD scholarships and 3 fellowships.
A major focus of the Foundation has been on schizophrenia research, which has now expanded to become “Brain Sciences: psychiatry and neurology”. One of our early major grants totalled $250,000, given by instalments, for the establishment of the Rebecca L Cooper Laboratories at the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria (this laboratory is known today as the Molecular Psychiatry Laboratory at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health).
Over the years, the Foundation has broadened its areas of funding support and its funding schemes, but has always prioritised areas of areas research that are less widely funded by other funding bodies; and early-career researchers. Funding opportunities are currently available in seven area of medical research and includes funding for both projects and people.
Project funding has evolved from the small equipment grants scheme (1985 to 2017) to the current Project Grants scheme, which commenced in 2018. People funding has been in the form of the PhD scholarship scheme (1999 to 2018) and the The Al & Val Rosenstrauss Fellowship, introduced in 2012 to support rising stars who are on track to establishing independence.
Since 2015, grant and fellowship applications have been peer reviewed by a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). Having experts review applications helps to ensure that the Foundation’s funds are directed towards high quality research.