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Robert Storr’s donation is the gift that keeps on giving

22 September 2017
Donation transforms treatment of liver disease

The world-renowned Storr Liver Centre, established from the generous bequest of Robert Storr, has made ground-breaking advancements in the fight against liver cancer and the prevention and treatment of liver disease.

The University of Sydney is celebrating 25 years of the generous bequest from Robert Storr, which established the world-renowned STORR Liver Centre at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

When Robert Storr sadly passed away from liver cancer in 1992, his wish was to donate to medical research to help others suffering from liver disease.

His major donation of $8.3 million to the University has not only funded decades of innovative medical research, but through careful investment, the gift has grown substantially throughout the years and should now fund the Centre in perpetuity.  

It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

The STORR Liver Centre is one of the top liver research centres in the world, renowned for its work that has led directly to improved outcomes for patients with liver cancer. This year the Centre made a world-first discovery by identifying the specific protein that causes liver disease - a great hope for new targeted treatments for liver disease.

The STORR Liver Centre is unique in that the model enables researchers to do end-to-end research - from the patient to the lab and back to the patient. Attracting researchers from across the globe, the Centre has made ground-breaking discoveries that have significantly impacted our understanding of liver diseases.

Between 1996 and 2017, Robert’s donation has funded more than $8.6 million of medical research at the STORR Liver Centre. It is currently tackling the rising rate of liver cancer in NSW through a large-scale project that involves a combination of surveillance, epidemiology, better treatment and the creation of a tissue bank for basic science research.

Robert’s bequest also enabled the establishment of a chair in Liver Cancer, the Robert W Storr Professor of Hepatic Medicine, currently held by Professor Jacob George.

“The Storr bequest, without a doubt, has been the biggest philanthropic gift for liver research in Australia,” said Professor George, who was appointed to the position in 2006.

“It has established the Storr Liver Centre as an internationally-acknowledged Centre of Excellence for research on viral hepatitis, fatty liver disease, genetics, gene regulation, liver cancer and other aspects of liver pathobiology.

“The Centre publishes on average 70 papers per year in the highest impact journals, including Nature Genetics, Nature, Nature Communications, and Cell.

“This has transformed both our understanding of liver diseases in general, but more importantly has impacted the lives of patients with liver diseases leading to greatly improved outcomes.  

“None of this would have been possible without the vision and generous gift of Robert Storr.

“His legacy and the Centre will remain a beacon of research excellence under the stewardship of the University of Sydney,” said Professor George.

Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University Dr Michael Spence said: “We are so grateful for the ongoing benefit the University derives from bequests such as these and their power to do good in the field of medical research.”

“Thanks to Robert Storr’s generous gift, the Storr Liver Centre is leading the charge in translational research and achieving life-changing outcomes for people suffering from liver disease.”

Helen Breekveldt, close friend of Robert Storr and executor of his estate, said her ongoing goal is to continue pursuing Robert’s dream of improving the health of Australians through medical research.

“I always hope that a great breakthrough will come out of Robert’s major bequest,” Helen said.

“I may not live to see it, but these things can happen suddenly.”

Liver disease is now the fifth most common cause of death in Australia, affecting 6 million Australians. In Australia, rates of liver cancer have trebled over the past 25 years.

About the Storr Liver Centre

The Storr Liver Centre seeks to understand the molecular and cellular basis of liver disease and liver cancer. Its work spans the breadth of liver disease from bench to bedside, including patient focussed and basic laboratory studies. The Centre has a large translational research program which seeks to provide better treatments for patients with liver diseases.

About the INSPIRED Campaign

The University of Sydney’s INSPIRED Campaign is Australia’s most successful philanthropic campaign, having raised more than $765 million from more than 53,000 donors across seven continents.