A Australian couple has donated £17 million to fund medicinal cannabis research at a Sydney university after their granddaughter was diagnosed with debilitating epilepsy.

Barry and Joy Lambert made one of the largest donations to research in Australian history on Friday, in what University of Sydney Vice Chancellor Michael Spence dubbed a “story about love and hope”.

“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,” Mr Lambert said.

Mr Lambert is founder of Count Financial, Australia’s biggest independent network of financial planners, which he sold to the CBA for £186 million in 2011. He remained with the company for another two years in a consulting role.

He and his wife have three adult children, but lost a daughter to hydrocephalus when she was two years old.

People living with epilepsy who suffer from uncontrolled seizures have reported some beneficial effects and reduced seizures when they’ve used a liquid form of medical cannabis, according to a recent report.

The study by New York University Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Centre, gave 213 child and adult patients with 12 different types of severe epilepsy cannabidiol, or liquid marijuana, daily for 12 weeks. It found that of the 137 people who completed the study, the number of seizures fell by an average of 54 per cent — although some also reported severe side effects.

Scientists welcomed the “game changing” gift at a press conference at the university, where Premier Mike Baird also thanked the Lamberts.

“What a historic day … on behalf of this state and country, thank you,” he said.

Orson is the founder of the London Cannabis Club.

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