Barry Lambert, a prominent figure in the business field, and his wife Joy were inspired to make the donation by the plight of their granddaughter Katelyn, whose battle with paediatric epilepsy has been significantly strengthened by the administration of medical cannabis.
“She has been having medical cannabis for six or seven months now and it appears to be working wonders for her,” said Mr Lambert.
“The only problem is we don’t know what the course is. We don’t know exactly what it is and what the impacts might be in the long term.
“So that’s why the research needs to be done.”
While paediatric epilepsy is a main focus of the Lambert Initiative, researchers at Sydney University say there are many other illnesses, such as cancers, diabetes and mental disorders, that could benefit from the proposed research.
“We don’t know exactly what the impacts might be in the long term, so that’s why the research needs to be done.”
Professor Iain McGregor has led the research into medical cannabis at Sydney University for some time and will lead the team funded by the donation.
Prof McGregor said he expects the funding to be ground-breaking and he hopes the subsequent research will encourage a change in the conversations surrounding the use of cannabis.
“I sometimes joke with my colleagues that the only way you could get a research grant to study cannabinoids or cannabis was to show that it does something bad to a teenager’s brain. And that was a truth for many years, and it is a truth that is unfortunately unscientific,” he said.
“We have all these psycho-active cannabinoids that just do wonderful things.
“We need to get these scientific facts into the imaginations of the Australian public and an important part of this initiative is also outreach to educate doctors and the general public about cannabinoids and to tell them that the field has moved on.”
Premier Mike Baird, a strong advocate for the use of medical cannabis, said the sizeable donation will give research in the area a much needed push towards finding cures for many illness and diseases.
“We’re leading the country and now effectively the world in this area,” he said.
“The Lamberts’ investment gives our cause enormous momentum and my hope is it dramatically increases the cross-sector knowledge sharing required to ultimately produce cannabinoid-based medicines that are safe affordable and reliable.”
“We need to get these scientific facts into the imaginations of the Australian public and … educate doctors and the general public about cannabinoids and to tell them that the field has moved on.”
Medical trials of cannabis have been ongoing since last year, but the new funding is expected to spur a greater understanding of the drug’s effects, as well as a deeper understanding as to why it works the way it does.
The announcement comes as Canada’s Supreme Court moved overnight to legalise all forms of medical cannabis, including cannabis oil, which means it can now be baked into food products.