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Nobel Prizes don’t come cheap: Laureate calls for greater research philanthropy

October 05th, 2016

Wealthy Australians should adopt a more philanthropic approach to medical research like their American cousins do, Australian Nobel laureate Peter Doherty said.

Mr Doherty was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1996 and said scientific research had since become far more expensive.

"What we lack a bit is the philanthropy," he told ABC News Breakfast.

"It's just not so built into our culture as it is in the United States ... it's very built into the American culture."

The Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology was last night awarded to Japan's Yoshinori Ohsumi for his work on "self-eating" cells.

Mr Doherty said he had hoped US cancer researcher James Allison would take the prize, and that greater donations from wealthy Australians would help drive local research of the kind that earns the prestigious award.

Last year the Federal Government allocated $850 million in grant funding under the National Health and Medical Research Council scheme, which covered about 18 per cent of applications.

"Science has become much more expensive, and the funding arrangements for that have not always kept up and you can understand why," Mr Doherty said.

"There's just so much you can spend on any activity within a government."

Mr Doherty said there were some notable philanthropic people in Australia, like Clive Berghofer and the Pratt family, and he hoped it would become more fashionable over time.

"There is big money in Australia, but a lot of it is newer money and they're not so much oriented [towards research philanthropy]."

He said universities and the scientific community could also be more proactive in pursuing private grants and donations.

"One of the things I have realised, because I have interacted with a lot of big philanthropists in the US, is that it's an enormous source of gratification to give money away for a good cause," he said.

"If you're getting older ... it's a really good opportunity to be a prince or a princess into old age."


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