Matthew Grounds Chairman with Steven Lowy, Prof Jason Kovacic and Prof Bob Graham, Board of Directors, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute

A Message from Chairman Matthew Grounds

It has been an enormous privilege to be the Chairman of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute as we celebrate its 25th Anniversary.

28 August 2020

I am only the third Chairman in its 25-year history, following in the footsteps of Steven Lowy AM and the founding Chairman the Hon Neville Wran AC QC.

The longevity of my predecessors and my own commitment to the Institute can be attributed to one man, our Founding Executive Director, Professor Robert Graham AO, who has been at the helm for the last 25 years.

The Institute was established in 1994, in honour of Dr Victor Chang, a humanitarian and pioneer of modern heart transplantation. According to those who knew him well, Dr Chang was passionate about the power of discovery and he had a bold vision to establish a world-class research institute, knowing that while he could save hundreds of lives through surgery, he could save thousands more through research. Bob brought this vision to life, as a caring clinician, a pioneer of molecular cardiology, and above all else, a true leader who has successfully fostered scientific excellence and innovation at the Institute for 25 years.

Honouring and thanking Professor Robert Graham for his service to the Institute and the community

Professor Bob Graham portrait

As a relative newcomer to the Institute, it didn’t take me long to recognise why the Institute has enjoyed so much success over such a long and sustained period. It really came down to two key ingredients. First of all, the Institute has incredibly strong foundations. The Sisters of Charity setting the mission with the full backing of St Vincent’s

Hospital, strong underpinning from the State and Federal Governments, broad community support led by the Packer and Lowy families, official openings led by Prime Ministers, Princess Diana and Princess Mary, formidable governance led by former Premier the late Hon Neville Wran, with eminent directors including Steven Lowy and Mark Johnson, and finally, of course, the wonderful and incredible legacy of Dr Victor Chang to live up to.

The second ingredient to the Institute’s long term success has obviously been leadership. How else could you build an Institute from a handful of scientists into a world leading heart research enterprise with over 200 scientists, led by global leaders in their respective fields and responsible for some of the world’s most important breakthroughs in cardiovascular research?

And for that we are all very fortunate that a young man by the name of Bob Graham, who at the age of 45, decided to return home after 17 years of working in the US at some of the most prestigious medical research organisations, under the tutelage of not one but two Nobel Laureates. As many of you know, Bob is an amazing individual with extraordinary kindness and a razor like intellect across almost any field. He’s a pioneer of molecular cardiology and, above all else, a true leader who, with an enormous generosity of spirit, has fostered the development of so many scientists on the world stage in cardiovascular research. I have learnt so much from Bob in these past 6 years and we have also had a lot of fun. So Bob thank you for that from me and my family. I know that so many of the Institute’s supporters who have shared this wonderful journey feel the same about Bob. In recognition of Bob’s achievements, we were very excited to announce, at a celebration dinner at the Sydney Opera House, that the Institute is establishing an Endowment to fund the Robert M Graham Chair for Cardiovascular Research.

The Robert M Graham Chair for Cardiovascular Research

The Endowed Chair will be held by the Executive Director of the Institute. In the Board’s view, this is the best way to both recognise the past, and also build for the future. The Robert M Graham Chair will not only ensure that Bob’s achievements and legacy are enshrined in the Chair’s name, but will also provide critical on-going funding for the future leadership of the Institute.

I am delighted that five of the Institute’s philanthropic family partners have generously donated $1million each to kick start the Endowment Fund for this Chair including The Douglass Family, The Lowy Family, the WA based Simon Lee Foundation, The Oatley Family and The Ritchie Family. We were honoured that their vision to start the Endowment with $5million is also shared by several of our valued supporters. This includes Mark and Sandra Johnson who have made a $500k commitment, together with The Vidor Family, The Gutman Family and The Selig family who have also made very generous donations to the Fund that will serve as a legacy to honour the scientific excellence Bob has fostered in perpetuity.

The impact of Bob’s decision to retire as Executive Director in early 2020 was softened by his desire to return to his laboratory full-time to focus on the vitally important research he and his team are doing into SCAD (spontaneous coronary artery dissection), together with the appointment of a new leader for the Institute, who has impeccable credentials to take the Institute to new heights.

Welcome to Our New Executive Director Professor Jason Kovacic

Over the past 18 months a small sub-committee of the Board including David Craig and Annabel Spring, together with an eminent scientific panel, including former head of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the President of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor John Shine; WEHI Executive Director, Doug Hilton; former UNSW Dean of Medicine, Professor Rodney Phillips; and leading cardiologist and Harvard Medical School Associate Professor Calum MacRae, worked with international executive search firm Perret Laver to identify candidates for the leadership of the Institute.

This process was extremely thorough. The subcommittee interviewed a number of potential candidates from all over the world and I’m pleased to report that we have found and appointed an extraordinary clinician and leader, Professor Jason Kovacic. Jason was most recently Professor of Medicine and Acting Director of the Mount Sinai Cardiovascular Research Centre in New York. We are extremely fortunate to have been able to lure Jason back from New York, where he is recognised as a leading cardiologist and researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital. Jason is not a stranger to the Institute having completed his PhD with Bob whilst working at St Vincent’s Hospital. We have every confidence that Jason will be able to build on Bob’s legacy and we are very excited about what the future holds for the Institute.

Matthew Grounds, Steven Lowy, Prof Jason Kovacic and Prof Bob Graham, Board of Directors, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute

Matthew Grounds, Steven Lowy, Prof Jason Kovacic and Prof Bob Graham

NSW Government Support

I would like to commend the NSW Government’s commitment to building capacity for cardiovascular research in the State with a commitment of $150million over 10 years. Championed by the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and the Heart Research Institute, the Cardiovascular Research Capacity Building Program is set to position NSW as the premier State in heart research. Not only are we equipping some of the greatest minds with the financial support they need to help save lives, but in the near future the Program will allow the recruitment of additional researchers to build capacity in cardiovascular research in NSW and, thus, to position the State at the global forefront of heart research.

Sohn Hearts & Minds Conference and HM1

We are extremely grateful to be the beneficiaries of the fourth Sohn Hearts & Minds Investment Leaders Conference, at which top fund managers from Australia and around the world share their best investment ideas in support of medical research. The conference goes from strength to strength and has grown in popularity to the point that this year the conference was also live streamed to attendees from the Drama Theatre to the Playhouse at the Sydney Opera House.

In its first year Hearts and Minds Investment Limited (ASX:HM1) has performed strongly. HM1 was established with support from the Institute and some of my fellow Directors including Hamish Douglass, Gary Weiss and David Craig. It is one of the first ever listed investment funds which has, as one of its pillars, the generation of revenue to benefit medical research, including at the Institute.

Sohn Hearts and Minds Conference Stage

The fund provides investors with exposure to approximately 25 individual company investments selected by the fund managers who present at the conference, and by the six core fund managers. The fund managers provide ideas pro bono and in lieu of management fees, the fund makes a donation to medical research, equal to 1.5% of the fund, annually. My sincere thanks to all the participating fund managers and in particular the core fund managers; Caledonia Investments, Cooper Investors, Magellan Financial Group, Paradice Investment Management, Regal Funds Management and TDM Growth Partners together with the board of HM1, all of whom are generously donating their services.

Western Australia

We co-hosted the State-of-the-Heart Dinner at Bistro Guillaume, Crown Perth with long term supporters, the Simon Lee Foundation. At the dinner we showcased some of the ground-breaking research being done at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and by our University of Western Australia-based Faculty-at-Large, Professor Livia Hool.

Professor Hool has made an enormous impact on cardiovascular disease in WA. She is leading the way for the State to become a centre of excellence for cardiovascular research, by spearheading the recent formation of the Western Australia Cardiovascular Research Alliance, which brings together all of WA’s key cardiovascular researchers. We warmly thank the Trustees of the Simon Lee Foundation as well as Mimi Wong and her family, for their continuing support of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

The Institute

2019 has been a landmark year for the Institute and whilst we celebrate 25 years of scientific achievements, we must acknowledge that none of our successes would be possible without the dedication and contributions of our Board members. In particular, I would like to thank David Craig, our Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the Finance Committee for his wholehearted commitment to supporting the Institute in a wide variety of ways. I would like to express our gratitude to Director Angelos Frangopoulos AM, who stepped off the Board this year after more than a decade of service, for his exceptionally valuable contribution to the Institute, and also to Annabel Spring for her significant efforts since joining in 2017. I would also like to express deep appreciation to all our Board members and Faculty, whose single-minded devotion to the vision of the Institute is unwavering. Finally, whilst we have wonderful supporters like you, the need for philanthropic support of our cardiovascular researchers has never been greater as they tackle the number one health problem in our community. Why don’t you join us and help our researchers solve the unsolved at Australia’s home of heart research?

Matthew's signature

Matthew Grounds AM

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years