Donations from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation are set to exceed a total of $17.5 million after they announced another 16 groups to share in $780,000 worth of funding at ceremony on Thursday.
Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) is the biggest beneficiary of the latest grants, receiving $143,600 to help fund the development of facial recognition technology to be used in the early identification and diagnosis of rare diseases.
The technology is used in high-level security, but is being transformed by HMRI to trace and compare genetic profiles of rare diseases through recognition of facial measurements.
Professor Michael Nilsson, a director at HMRI, said its a “game-changing” opportunity to receive the funding.
“We are lagging behind in understanding of these rare diseases and there are so many genetic variants and forms,” he said.
“But surprisingly, if you compare facial signs with your genetic profiles, you can actually refine and drive the diagnostics a lot better.
“To parents, and of course the children, it's vitally important to have a diagnosis because that will determine so many different steps for the future; long term if its possible to treat, but also how can we manage genetic disease that we have limited information about.”
Chair of the Foundation Phil Neat said the HMRI project is the standout, but all recipients, no matter the size of the donation, are of equal significance.
"We've got projects across the Hunter, Central Coast, Mid North Coast, Northern Tablelands and New England, and the quality of those projects continues to amaze us,” he said.
“We've got three key focus areas which are the marginalised, youth and community wellbeing.”
The Foundation also announced they will honoring their late Chair, Michael Slater – who passed away in July – with a new volunteers medal.
The Chairman's Medal will be in recognition of Mr Slater’s service to the organisation, and the medal will be awarded to a volunteer each year from one of the Foundation’s partner charities.
Mr. Slater’s wife and two children were on hand at the ceremony to see the announcement and nominations for the first medal will be called for and available to any project the Foundation has funded since its inception in 2003.
The Foundation offers two rounds of funding each year and offers training days to any non-for-profit organisation hoping to submit an application for funding.