$33.7 million for Katelyn

Barry and Joy Lambert have donated nearly $34 million to University of Sydney research into the medicinal properties of marijuana, inspired by their granddaughter. Liz Henderson explores the love and need behind the gift.

MarijuanaSemi-retired financial services magnate Barry Lambert, 68, and his wife, Joy, have given $33.7 million to the University of Sydney to fund research into medicinal marijuana, inspired by the transformation it has triggered in their granddaughter Katelyn, who suffers a crippling form of epilepsy.

“The experience of our granddaughter, who suffers from debilitating epilepsy, has opened our eyes to the extraordinary possibility of cannabinoids treating not only her condition, but a range of chronic illnesses that often don’t respond to conventional treatments,” said Barry Lambert.

He told The Daily Mail Australia that Katelyn, who is three, has suffered Dravet’s Syndrome since she was six months old. He said she used to be hospitalised every few weeks before she started using medicinal cannabis. “She has been on it for seven or eight months and she’s only been hospitalised once in that time,” he said.

“It appears to work miracles for her. But that’s why the research needs to be done to understand the science behind it and to prove, beyond doubt, that it works and what the long-term impacts would be.”

Lambert began his career in finance at age 17 working for the Commonwealth Bank in the country town of Taree, NSW. Last year he ranked No. 145 on the BRW Rich 200 List with a fortune of $350 million.

In 1980 he founded Count Financial offering tax services after-hours, which he grew into a financial services network operating across Australia that the Commonwealth Bank bought in 2011 for $373 million. Its Count Charitable Foundation has given away over $4.8 million since launching in 2004 with a corpus of $1.5 million.

University’s largest donation for research
The Lamberts’ donation is the largest the University of Sydney has ever received for research. It will be used to create the Lambert Initiative, which will explore the medicinal properties of cannabis including as a treatment for addiction, cancer, obesity, childhood epilepsy, chronic pain, dementia and mental health disorders.

University of Sydney vice-chancellor, Michael Spence, said the gift would elevate the university to the front ranks of world research in the area, along with the US, the Netherlands and Israel.

NSW Premier, Mike Baird, said it would bolster his government’s support for cannabinoid research: a commitment of $9 million last year towards three clinical trials, and $12 million this month to establish the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation.

“The Lamberts’ investment gives our cause enormous momentum and my hope is that it dramatically increases the cross-sector knowledge-sharing required to ultimately produce cannabinoid-based medicines that are safe, reliable and affordable,” he said.

Liz Henderson is editor of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.


Main image courtesy of Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net