Friday, May 21, 2010


Went out to the letter box this morning and there's an unsolicited letter from the Garvan Medical Research Institute asking for a donation.

These people have a hide. Not satisfied with the funds they can prise out of the NH&MRC and wealthy dowagers from the leafy suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, they've now tuned their guns on the hoi polloi.

But what could you expect for an organisation set up by the Catholic Church and the University of New South Wales? Blend in the NH&MRC, Big Pharma and Madison Avenue in the form of a fund raising and PR department and they end up putting the bite on people like me. They must have spent a fortune sending out hundreds of thousands of letters, all in the hope of suckering 3% of people into sending them a donation. These are the sort of people that used to tug the heartstrings of my Mum and Dad.

A few years ago it was a cardiac charity setting up booths in shopping centres staffed by kids in suits.

Why do they want money from me?

When it comes to the Garvan Institute, it's not as though all those boffins are sitting on high stools peering down microscopes with the seat out of their pants and ladders in their panty hose.
Last year the Institute had an income of $64m. The spent $44m (of which $28,000,000 went on salaries) and trousered the rest. That's a cool $2o which no doubt has been added to the $100m in assets.

They want more. They obviously can't get any more from serial soft touch, Lady Fairfax or colourful Sydney businessman Trevor Kennedy and his wife, so they've written to the likes of me out in suburbia. Well sorry boffins, my charity dollars for this year have been allocated. It's gone to Somalia, or the Sudan or somewhere. You've called too late.

Pity the NSW Government. Despite going broke, last year they gave the Garvan $3.7m - which, no doubt got squirreled away into the hollow log that contains the $20m.

The flyer in the envelope with the letter begging for money extolled the virtues of the Institute and what jolly good, hard working fellows they all are. No mention that it's just another sheltered workshop for the academically gifted.

They're just one of many sheltered workshops up there in Sydney, research organisations run by the Sydney University and the University of NSW, spawned to suck on the NH&MRC tit and Big Pharma from cradle to grave.

Their 400 staff are in a perpetual drool as they hitch their wagons onto the latest gravy train passing through town.

Guess what they're researching at the moment?

- Obesity Research
- Osteoporosis Research
- Weight and Blood Pressure Medication
- Diabetes Risk Study
- Glutamine in Type 2 diabetes
- Pre-diabetes: early mechanisms in the development of type 2 diabetes.

You can put down the glasses the results are in. Eat less fat, flour and sugar. Exercise like buggery and get your acid/alkaline ratio back into the normal range. All fixed. These people are either very young or have short memories.

According to the bumpf on their website -

The Garvan Institute is a global leader in diabetes research and committed to finding new ways to understand, control and prevent the disease. Garvan researchers are tackling the problem of type 2 diabetes from many directions, including: investigating the role of genes in the development of type 2 diabetes; collaborating with scientists at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica to unlock the potential of traditional Chinese medicines for better treatments; and understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease.

These people don't have a clue about exercise not do they give a stuff about it. As the population becomes unfitter and fatter these people are peering down microscopes looking at the Islets of KD Langerhans. The reference to the Shanghai Institute means trips. They're trying to find out why Chinese medicine works. Hello! You don't have to find out why. It's been working vefry nicely thank you very much for a few thousand years. Modern medical research is about as arrogant as it gets.

World-wide collaborations have been set up. Maps have been Blue-tacked on walls and pins have been stuck into places all over the world. Pinz meenz tripz. They want me to pay for them. They're dreaming.

Simply put, this is a medical charity masquerading as a research centre that's turned academic bludging into an art form. Cop this -

You can create an online fund raising page for many different occasions that mark your life:

If you are having a birthday or wedding, why not ask people to make a donation to Garvan rather than give you unwanted presents?

If you have an anniversary or celebration, you can suggest that if people would like to honour this, they can do so through their donation to Garvan.

If a loved one has passed away, you can ask people to donate to Garvan in memory of your loved one instead of giving flowers.

If you are participating in an organised fundraising event such as a marathon, swim or triathlon, you can choose for proceeds to go to Garvan.

It's enough to make you want to ram your fingers down your throat and roll your eyes through to the back of your neck.

Like all these institutes it's run by boffins who spend a quarter of their life writing research grants and a quarter of their life sitting on review panels sniffing each others' bums and making sure they all get grants. The NH&MRC needs to bring Hercules in to muck out this stable.

Then they spend another quarter of their life doing some research, finishing off with the final quarter sprinting to the finish line writing papers referred by their mates for research journals no-one reads. Then it's off to international conferences to deliver the papers, sniff more bums, scratch more backs, quaff more Grange Hermitage supplied by drug companies and get their heads patted. It's a great big farce. Why? Because while all this is going on the population is getting fatter and unfitter by the day.

Papers that's what it's all about. You can look at some of them in the back of the Annual Report. These people don't produce anything except papers. They don't make anything, they don't sell anything. You'd think that after researching for the last 80 years the Garvan Institute would be rolling in income from patents.

And just who are these people? Most of them are second-raters who couldn't get a job out in the real world. Anyone who's smart as a tack gets out and makes their fortune producing something of value. Read the stories of Jobs, Ellison and Gates. These are stories of intelligence put to good use, that created value for themselves and their community.

The ones that stayed behind got a second class honors degree. If you've got one of them and you hang arouncampus long enough they'll take pity on you and slip you a few labouring jobs, running tutes for wet-behind-the-ears undergraduates and cleaning test tubes. If you can stick that out for a couple of years you're qualified start a doctorate. Once you've done that you can become a post.doc fellow and then you're on the academic equivalent of the dole for life.

After that it's busy work. It used to be vanity, now it's busy work.

Busy work, busy work, all is busy work - and cribbing a bit of work time to write letters to the papers telling the Government to spend more money on research so you can keep putting bread on the table. You sign your name 'Bill Nerd, PhD' just to let people know you're superior. To hell if what you're doing is useless.

Not only is it farce it's also tragedy that so much money can be spent on so many people with their heads down doing busy work. This is the academic equivalent of stimulating the economy by digging holes and filling them up again.

The great advances in health won't come out of a bloated, useless, self-serving Garvan Institute they'll come from people eating wisely and spending 40 minutes a day jogging round the block. Peering down microscopes and writing equations on white boards is the easy stuff. The hard stuff is getting people off their bums and out of the junk food eateries.

On the track
Out early with the boys, walking and running.

In the meantime stay tuned, highly tuned and if you've got type 2 diabetes go for a 40 minute run every day and eat more methylhydoxychalcone polymer. You'll find it in your kitchen cupboard. It's called cinnamon.

John Miller

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