19 September 2006

An historian who chronicled one of Brisbane's most intriguing families in The Mayne Inheritance will leave a legacy which offers hope for families affected by a genetic kidney disease.

Dr Rosamond Siemon has turned her focus from the past to the future by supporting kidney research at The University of Queensland through a generous bequest and a scholarship, which begins next year.

Dr Siemon's aim is to aid Professor Melissa Little and her team from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) in researching polycystic kidney disease – an inherited condition affecting more than 60,000 Australians.

Dr Siemon's son-in-law had the disease, which made him dialysis-dependent for most of his adult life and caused his premature death.

“I could not look my grandchildren or great-grandchildren in the eyes if I did not do something, and that is why I've established the scholarship now," Dr Siemon said.

“I have had a wonderful life and being able to put something back in my lifetime is very important to me.”

UQ's Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Hay, AC, praised Dr Siemon's foresight.

He said Dr Siemon set a fine example by supporting research with the potential to benefit generations of families affected by polycystic kidney disease.

“Having published a book about leading UQ benefactors, the Mayne family, this UQ graduate and former staff member is now a philanthropist in her own right,” Professor Hay said.

Professor Little said polycystic kidney disease was the most common genetic cause of chronic renal disease. Thirteen thousand of Australia's 60,000 patients have reached end-stage renal disease, which occurs when kidney filtration rate falls below 10 percent.

“Our laboratory focuses on gaining a greater understanding of the processes involved in normal kidney development, as well as chronic renal disease," Professor Little said.

“Like other forms of chronic renal disease, polycystic kidney disease can currently only be treated via organ transplantation or dialysis.

“Only one in four end-stage renal failure patients will receive a kidney transplant, so new ways of treating the disease are urgently needed, especially as the number of Australians with the condition is rising at around eight percent per annum.

“Our long-term aim is to use our knowledge to develop therapies for treating renal disease, an aim which will be greatly furthered by Dr Siemon's generosity.”

The Dr Rosamond Siemon Postgraduate Renal Research Scholarship will be available to any UQ or other suitably qualified postgraduate student undertaking multidisciplinary, collaborative research into renal disease, repair and regeneration.

Dr Siemon completed her PhD in history at UQ and was the University's Alumni Officer for 11 years.

Media contact: Bronwyn Allan (IMB) (07 3346 2134/0418 575 247); or Fiona Kennedy (UQ) (07 3365 1088/0413 380 012).

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