Dr Charlie Teo’s Australia Day Address – And Why Funding Science Matters

The part that caught my eye (full transcript here)?

“I am at an enviable stage of my professional life. With my international reputation I am fortunate enough to be invited to lecture, operate, direct courses and spend time in foreign neurosurgical programs as visiting professor.

I see it as an opportunity to keep abreast of current trends in clinical medicine and basic science research and in so doing, ensure that Australian patients with neurosurgical conditions are getting the very best the world has to offer.

An unexpected consequence is that it exposes me firsthand to the enormous disparity in scientific funding between Australia and the USA, Japan, Germany, Sweden and many of the other OECD countries.

My good friend and colleague, Prof. Mitch Berger was recently awarded a SPORE grant of $50 million a year for 5 years to be spent on brain cancer research only. He was so impressed with the volume and quality of work I was doing in Sydney, he sent his chief resident to spend 6 months learning my minimally invasive techniques.

When he asked how much funding I received from my government, I was ashamed to say only $150,000 over three years.

He was totally shocked. The USA and California specifically has shown tremendous foresight in their approach to scientific research.

A recent meeting I attended in California on stem cell research was the perfect illustration of this disparate approach to scientific excellence.

I was impressed that the Australian scientists at the meeting could hold their own when it came to innovative ideas and universal knowledge of stem cell therapeutics.

I was equally disappointed to hear that our funding of stem cell research, although not as dismal as brain cancer research, was poor.

One of the greatest gifts given to humanity by a few socially responsible corporations and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, maybe not on the same level as “I’ll be back”, was a $3 billion grant for stem cell research.

Australia has a perfect opportunity to ensure our children and their children will see a bright future.

The wealth generated by the current mining boom should be seen as an opportunity to build the foundations of the next boom, the mind boom.

We have the scientists. We have some of the most inquisitive minds in the world. We clearly have the resources.

All we need is the insight and foresight to put our resources to good use. Of course this has long term benefits in sustaining and growing our economy.

As they say, you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know these things.”

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