Executive Officer Research report

The past year has been ground-breaking for the Motor Neurone Disease Research Institute of Australia (MNDRIA). Not only were more funds than ever before distributed by MNDRIA, but also a major project grant was awarded for the first time.

Menzies Research Institute researchers and Janet NashThe generosity of bequestors and donors has allowed MNDRIA to become the major force in driving MND research in Australia.  We are grateful for gifts of several bequests, which accounted for 24% of MNDRIA income during 2012/13.  Another 26% came from family trusts and foundations.  MNDRIA is fortunate to have the steadfast support of the state MND associations and loyal donors who give so generously every year.

Funds awarded for new grants commencing in 2013 total $2.014 million. In the calendar year 2013 a total of $1.75 million has been paid by MNDRIA for 15 grants-in-aid, five concurrent Bill Gole Postdoctoral Fellowships, two PhD scholarships (co-funded with NHMRC) and four PhD top-up grants.  These grants provide substantial support for established researchers and encourage young researchers to dedicate their career to MND. 

A further $150,000 has been paid to the Australian School of Advanced Medicine (ASAM), Macquarie University, NSW for the first of four annual instalments of the MND Australia Leadership Grant which was awarded to Associate Professor Ian Blair to investigate the pathogenic basis of familial ALS. Contributions for the grant have been received this year from the MND and Me Foundation and the Scanlon Foundation.   Ian and his team of genetics researchers have joined other research teams with expertise in cell biology, biochemistry, proteomics, and animal disease models to form a new MND centre at ASAM.

Long-serving MND research committee member, Emeritus Professor John Pollard OA, has stood down after 19 years of providing wisdom and guidance.  We are grateful for the many hours that he and other research committee members have given freely each year to carefully assess all grant applications to ensure that the available funds go only to proposals with the greatest relevance and the most likely chance of providing benefit for people with MND. MND research committee members are the leaders in their various fields of MND research and represent most Australian states.

The annual MND Australia Research Meeting , which provides the opportunity for researchers funded by MNDRIA to present the outcome of their work to their peers and to MNDRIA members was held at the Queensland Brain Institute in November 2012 with generous support from both QBI and Sanofi.  Record attendance of 75 researchers and supporters, many from interstate, provided a buzzing forum for exchange of ideas.  Future annual meetings will be extended to full day symposia to accommodate both oral and poster presentations from the increasing numbers of MND researchers in Australia.

The MND community is kept informed of national and international MND research through regular research newsletters, which are distributed with the help of state MND associations and the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations. Advance, the bi-annual newsletter of MNDRIA, has a circulation of 4,500 copies.  The MND Australia International Research Update is a brief quarterly report outlining major research news from across the globe. 

MND research has come a long way since the establishment of MNDRIA by volunteers in 1984.  Dr Graham Lang, who died in January 2013, had a significant role in development of the highly regarded Research Institute we have today.  He attended the 2012 grants allocation meeting and witnessed the record-breaking award of over $2 million. He would have been so pleased to know that we have now officially raised the bar to provision of at least $2 million every year and this has been achieved again in 2013.  Graham’s contribution will be recognised with the award of the Graham Lang Memorial MND Research Grant next year. 

MNDRIA income 2012/13

Named grants supported by major donors and state MND associations in 2013:
Bill Gole Postdoctural MND Research Fellowship
Graham Linford Postdoctural MND Research Fellowship
Charles & Shirley Graham MND Research Grant
Mick Rodger Benalla MND Research Grant
Mick Rodger MND Research Grant
MND Victoria MND Research Grant
Peter Sterne Grant for Familial MND Research
Rosalind Nicholson MND Research Grant
Susie Harris Memorial Fund MND Research Grant
Susie Harris Memorial Fund MND Research Grant
zo-ee MND Research Grant

Janet Nash
Executive Officer Research
MND Australia

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