Generous gift will provide access to some of the world's best stroke researchers

24 May 2017

A ‘transformational’ gift to UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) will support a move to open up the facility, its world-leading researchers and clinicians to patients in the Brisbane community.

The gift from The Brazil Family Foundation will support a new clinical interface at QBI, with $1 million put towards Motor Neuron Disease (MND) research, and $4 million funding stroke research.

QBI Director Professor Pankaj Sah said the gift would have a significant impact on the fields of stroke and Motor Neuron Disease research by increasing interaction and exposure between patients and researchers.

“The Brazil family’s dedication and passion for understanding, managing and preventing neurological disease is amazing and their gift will have a profound impact on stroke and Motor Neuron disease research," he said. 

“As I came to QBI with a background in medicine, it was always my vision as Director to introduce a clinical arm to enable clinicians and researchers to work side-by-side with patients to better understand and cure disease.

“The ability for researchers and clinicians to work together accelerates research which is why The Brazil Family Foundation gift will have an incredible impact and why I feel compelled to highlight just how transformational this $5 million gift is."

Mater Medical Research Institute will be collaborating on the new clinical interface project at QBI, with the Director of the Mater Centre for Neurosciences, Professor Michael O’Sullivan, spearheading the new stroke research.

QBI Scientist, stroke survivor and advocate Dr Lavinia Codd (Bachelor of Commerce ’89, Bachelor of Science (Neuroscience) (First Class Honours) ’07, Doctor of Philosophy (Biological Science) ’15) said the gift would make a huge difference to stroke research.

"I think the Brazil Family Foundation gift has the potential to result in great leaps forward in stroke research. This donation will truly make a difference,” said Dr Codd.  

"I cannot tell you just how much this gift means to me not just as a researcher but as a stroke survivor, it is amazing, it has the potential to really drive change.”

While there is a perception that young and healthy individuals don’t suffer from stroke, this isn’t true, and one-third of all stroke survivors, like Dr Codd, are under the age of 65.

Dr Lavinia Codd experienced a stroke when she was just 31-years-old. The stroke which occurred in an area of the brain responsible for long-term memory, learning and spatial awareness, affected her ability to recognise her children and navigate even the most familiar of places.

“A year after the stroke I still wasn’t confident that I’d remember what my daughter looked like – I would always verbally memorise what she was wearing as a backup in case I couldn’t recognise her face when I picked her up from day care,” said Dr Codd.

“My injuries didn’t manifest themselves externally; unlike other survivors, I don’t have paralysis or speech problems. Instead, my deficits are hidden, they are in my memories and vision.”

Instead of simply giving in to the bleak recovery outcomes offered to her, Dr Codd, who previously worked as a chartered accountant leapt right back into the science degree that she had started prior to her stroke. She went on to complete her Honours year, a PhD and dedicate her work to improving the recovery of other stroke survivors.

"I got into this line of work because I want to help people, because I had recovered so well compared to many other stroke survivors and I felt guilty about that and thought 'what can I do to help others? And where can I create the greatest impact in my work?'

“Once I had been in Perry's lab at QBI it became clear that this was neuroscience and fundamental science, I was totally hooked,” she said. 

Stroke is a leading killer in Australia, with 50, 000 Australians suffering a stroke each year and it is estimated to cost the healthcare system $54 billion per annum.

QBI takes a holistic approach to stroke research, looking not just at treatments, but at developing a better understanding of the brain to spearhead early detection, prevention and potential cures.

Opening up a clinical arm in QBI will enable patients and community members to benefit from some of the world’s top minds right here in Brisbane. This opportunity was only made possible through the generous Brazil Family Foundation gift. If driving discovery outcomes for diseases such as stroke, Alzheimer’s and dementia, Parkinson’s and Motor Neuron Disease is important to you as well, please consider supporting QBI’s research in these areas. At QBI, 100 per cent of donations go directly towards funding research.