Canberra's Snow family is donating $100 million over 10 years to establish a world-leading immunology research centre in Melbourne to find answers to autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Described as "one of the largest and longest running philanthropic partnerships in Australian history", the donation will be used to establish the Snow Centre for Immune Health, which will be run by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
The hope is that the centre will "solve some of the greatest puzzles in the human body".
The Snow Medical Research Foundation is the creation of Canberra's Snow family and the vision of its patriarch, businessman and philanthropist Terry Snow.
Debilitating autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis collectively affect up to 10 per cent of the population.
In a world-first, The Snow Centre for Immune Health will look at the immune system as a whole, rather than disease-by-disease, to take tackle the conditions head on.
"Australia has some of the best researchers in the world. We want to get them out of short-term funding cycles and give them freedom to experiment and take risks - we're here to back them," Mr Snow said.
"WEHI researchers have always been known for their outstanding commitment to excellence. They presented us with a bold and ambitious vision for Australian research - they're going to change the lives of millions of Australians living with immune health issues."
WEHI acting director Professor Alan Cowman said the Snow Centre for Immune Health would change the way the medical community viewed the immune system, with the ambitious aim of revolutionising healthcare delivery to be about proactively predicting and preventing, instead of reacting to and treating, immune illness and disorders.
"While research into immune health has traditionally focused on specific diseases or cells, the Snow Centre for Immune Health will invert this and look at the immune system from a 'whole-of-system' perspective - like we do for the cardiovascular and respiratory systems," he said.
"The centre will rapidly accelerate this growing field of research and do it at a scale not seen anywhere else in the world.
"We are deeply grateful to the Snow Medical Research Foundation and the Snow family for their vision, boldness and generosity, in backing this talented team and their revolutionary approach to how we understand and treat immune disease."
Former WEHI Director Dr Doug Hilton played an instrumental role in developing the vision for the centre with the Snow family.
"This centre has the potential to entirely change the game when preventing, diagnosing and treating immune disease, which has a tremendous burden on the global community," he said.
"This extraordinary investment from the Snow Medical Research Foundation has the power to solve some of the greatest puzzles in the human body. The scale of the centre, as well as the long-term backing of some of the brightest scientists in the country by the Snow family, will help accelerate this research for the good of the community."
Snow Medical chair Tom Snow said the $100 million commitment more than doubled its investment in medical research from $100 million over the four years since 2019 to more than $200 million.
"We empower bold transformative research across Australia by backing the best and brightest researchers - and resourcing them with the tools they need to be world-class," Tom Snow said.
"We searched the country to find the best teams with the brightest ideas, and we chose to home this project at WEHI as we are confident it will help transform the lives of so many Australians with immunological disease."
Tom Snow said the family "could not be more proud" to make the contribution to solving the mystery of autoimmune diseases.
"This is about our family's commitment to long-term sustainable positive impact for the community and it builds on the legacy of the Snow Fellowship program, research funding and other community-based philanthropy," he said.
Mr Snow said his family had been impacted by illness but the donation wasn't motivated by that.
"There's a personal reason in every Australian family. I don't know any family in Australia that's not touched in some way by immune disease," he said.
"Our family has our fair share of issues - including severe asthma and allergies by multiple members.
"But our motivation for doing this is because we can turbo-charge 20 years of existing work by amazing scientists, and have the ability to deliver real results that affect the lives of so many."
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