Inspired by Epileptic Granddaughter, Banker Gives $30 Million to MMJ Research

By Victoria Kim 06/17/15

Barry Lambert gave the University of Sydney its largest-ever research donation.

Barry and Joy Lambert
Barry (left) and Joy (middle) Lambert. Photo via

The University of Sydney received $33.7 million to research medical marijuana—the largest research donation in the university’s history—to study its potential to treat a range of illnesses, including childhood epilepsy. The donation was presented to the university on Friday by Sydney banker Barry Lambert and his wife Joy, who have an estimated worth of $372 million.

The couple was inspired to support medical marijuana research after seeing how cannabis-based medicine relieved the symptoms of a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome in their three-year-old granddaughter, Katelyn, who has suffered from seizures since she was six-months old. Barry Lambert told the Daily Mail Australia that Katelyn was hospitalized just once in the seven to eight months that she has been using medical marijuana, compared to “every few weeks and sometimes more frequently” without it.

“The experience of our granddaughter ... has opened our eyes to the extraordinary possibility of cannabinoids treating not only her condition but a range of chronic illnesses that don’t often respond to conventional treatments,” Lambert said.

The couple’s donation will fund the Lambert Initiative at the university, and will support clinical and scientific research to explore the potential benefits of 10 key cannabinoid compounds found in marijuana. “We now know there are more than 100 different compounds we call cannabinoids, many of which have incredible therapeutic properties that we are only beginning to understand,” said Iain McGregor, a professor of psychopharmacology and one of the lead investigators of the Lambert Initiative.

The multi-millionaires say their gift is “not only for the possible benefit of children with childhood epilepsy, like Katelyn, but also for its possible benefits for a wide range of other conditions that may benefit from extensive research into the cannabis plant.”

The Guardian notes that research published in April found that oral cannabis extracts reduced seizures in 33% of the 75 child epilepsy sufferers in the study; of those with Dravet syndrome, 23% responded to treatment. The researchers concluded that larger, more rigorous studies are needed to evaluate its efficacy and safety for treatment of epilepsies in children.

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