Unlocking the medicinal potential of cannabis


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On the surface it appears that Professor Iain McGregor (PhD (Psych) ’92), an international leader in cannabinoid research, and Mr Barry Lambert, founder of Count Financial, don’t have much in common.

However, an extraordinary gift from Barry and his wife, Joy Lambert, has united the two men for a very important purpose – researching the medical applications of cannabis for chronic illnesses.

The Lamberts donated $33.7 million in 2015 to fund the Lambert Initiative at the University of Sydney. It is the largest single research donation in the University’s history.

The initiative was inspired by the Lamberts’ granddaughter, Katelyn, who has debilitating epilepsy. Without any new treatments Katelyn faces a lifetime of seizures.

“Our vision is to make Australia a world leader in researching how to realise the powerful medicinal potential of the cannabis plant,” Mr Lambert says.

“We believe this investment in the future of Australian science and medicine will provide the much-needed evidence to rapidly advance the use of medicinal cannabinoids in the treatment of childhood epilepsy and other serious illnesses.”

The couple’s mission is to put Australia at the forefront of research into the medicinal potential of cannabis. Their support will ensure that an experienced and talented group of researchers at the University of Sydney can explore a wide range of uses. These include treatments for addiction, cancer, obesity, childhood epilepsy, chronic pain, dementia and mental health disorders.

Professor of Psychopharmacology Iain McGregor says the research will focus on 10 key “cannabinoid” compounds found in marijuana and their potential use in treating a range of illnesses, including childhood epilepsy.

“Only one [tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC] is psychoactive,” he says. “This gift will allow us to explore one of the most exciting questions in modern medicine. The new science of cannabinoids has incredible potential for relief of human suffering, and to repair damaged bodies and brains.”

The Lambert Initiative funds a multi-year program to build on the University’s extensive clinical and scientific cannabinoid-related expertise with the ultimate aim of producing cannabinoid-based medicines.

Find out more about the Lambert Initiative.

Read more in the AFR on why Barry Lambert invested in medicinal cannabinoid research.