MNDRA's people

Motor Neurone Disease Research Australia (MNDRA) is the research arm of MND Australia. 


PrincipAL member

MND Australia is the principal member of MNDRA.


The Board members of MNDRA are the same as the Board of MND Australia.



The MND Australia Research Committee members review grant applications and determine the distribution of funds within the set policies, and according to the criteria for scientific assessment. Read more about the grant award process.

Members of the MNDRA Research Committee: 

Professor David Burke AC, MD, DSc, FRACP, FAA, FTSE, Chairman

Professor David Burke has been recognised for eminent service to neurophysiology, to innovative treatments for spinal cord and brain trauma injuries, and to professional medical organisations.

Professor Burke was the first medical Chairman of MNDRA (1995-1998), following inaugural Chairman Dr Dawn Thew, who founded the Institute in 1986. In October 2019, Professor Burke returned to the role of Chairman of the research committee.

Professor Samar Aoun, WA

Samar Aoun is Professor of Palliative Care, La Trobe University. She is a palliative care researcher with a public health approach and a focus on under-served population groups such as people with MND and she strongly advocates for a person-centred health and social care. Her work on supporting family caregivers at end of life and the public health approach to bereavement care has informed policy and practice at the national and international levels. Prof Aoun is currently Chairperson of the MND Association of WA.
Samar Aoun.jpg

Professor Ian Blair, NSW

Professor Ian Blair heads a research group investigating the molecular and cellular basis of MND at the Australian School of Advanced Medicine, Macquarie University. The aims of his research are to identify genes that either cause or predispose to MND and study how defects in these genes lead to motor neurone death. Professor Blair's research career has focused on various neurological diseases including MND, bipolar disorder, Joubert syndrome, sensory neuropathy, Charcot Marie Tooth disorder (CMT), and the spinal cerebellar ataxias (SCA).

Professor Tracey Dickson, Tasmania

Professor Tracey Dickson heads a research group investigating the cellular mechanism underlying MND at the Menzies Research Institute, University of Tasmania. The group's research focuses on using a range of novel in vitro primary culture models, in conjunction with transgenic models and human post-mortem analysis. Dr Dickson's broader research program investigates at the cellular level mechanisms relevant to a range of neurodegenerative diseases including Frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson's disease and also traumatic brain injury. Dr Dickson's goal through identifying the sequence of pathogenic events occurring in MND is to identify novel therapeutic targets. 

Professor Simon Foote, ACT 

Professor Simon Foote is the Director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research. Professor Foote and his group study the genetics of diseases that affect isolated and less affluent populations. By investigating how genes affect people’s susceptibility to diseases caused by parasites, they are able to design new drugs that are less prone to causing the disease to become drug resistant. Professor Foote was previously the director of the Menzies Research Institute in Hobart, and the Dean of the Australian School of Medicine at Macquarie University.

Professor Glenda Halliday, NSW

Professor Glenda Halliday is a Professor of Neuroscience at the School of Medical Science at the University of New South Wales and Director of the Sydney Brain Bank. Her broad interest lies in identifying and understanding the pathobiology of different stages of neurodegeneration in both movement disorders and dementias. She heads the Molecular Neuroscience and Brain Pathology Laboratory at Neuroscience Research Australia. Professor Halliday’s research into neurodegeneration has had a significant impact on the current understanding of disease progression, with core concepts incorporated into current consensus diagnostic criteria for different non-Alzheimer dementias and Parkinson’s disease. 

Professor Matthew Kiernan, AM, NSW

Professor Kiernan is the Bushell Chair of Neurology at the University of Sydney and Co-Director at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre. He is Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry and President of the Australian Brain Foundation. Professor Kiernan and his team are currently investigating the mechanisms and possible prevention of neurodegeneration in MND, as well as being involved in clinical trials investigating potential drug treatments for motor neurone disease. He was the Chair of the MNDRA Research Committee from 2014 to 2019.   

Dr Susan Mathers, VIC

Consultant Neurologist at Monash Medical Centre, and the Clinical Director of Neurology at Calvary Health Care Bethlehem, Melbourne, which provides neuro-rehabilitative and neuro-palliative services to people with progressive neurological diseases including over 200 people with MND.  Dr Mathers is a member of the MND Research Tissue Bank of Victoria and a founding member of the Australian MND Register. Dr Mathers' main interests are in the management of chronic progressive neurological diseases and models of care. She is currently involved in a project to implement a state-wide integrated care service for people with progressive neurological diseases in Victoria.

Professor Pamela McCombe, QLD

Professor Pamela McCombe’s research interest is in the field of neuroimmunology, both in how the immune system causes disease of the nervous system, and more recently in how the immune system might contribute to recovery from damage. Much of her work in neuroimmunology has been done in the fields of MS and in neuromuscular disorders. Professor McCombe's interest in neuromuscular diseases led to studies of ALS, both in neurophysiology and in immunology. 

Dr Shyuan Ngo, QLD

Dr Shyuan Ngo heads a research group investigating neurometabolism in MND at the University of Queensland, the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital (RBWH), and the Wesley Hospital. As the Scott Sullivan MND Research Fellow, Dr Ngo oversees a research program that centres on the MND clinics at the RBWH and Wesley. Her patient-directed research is complemented by extensive basic research using a range of transgenic models, human myosatellite cells, and human induced pluripotent stem cell derived neurons. Dr Ngo’s broader research program aims to identify pathogenic mechanisms in MND with the goal to develop or re-purpose therapeutic compounds for personalised medicine for MND.

Professor Dominic Rowe AM, NSW

Professor Dominic Rowe is the Inaugural Professor of Neurology at the Australian School of Advanced Medicine, Macquarie University. Professor Rowe is the co-author of four textbooks and over thirty research publications. Professor Rowe studied biochemistry and medicine at the University of Sydney, and then completed training in internal medicine and neurology in Sydney before completing neurology training at Queen’s Square and Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. He was the Chairman of the Research Committee from 2004 to 2014. 
Professor Dominic Rowe

Professor Dominic Thyagarajan, VIC

Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Medicine, Southern Clinical School (Monash University) and Directory of Neurology (Monash Health), based in Monash Medical Centre, Clayton. Professor Thyagarajan heads one of the largest neurology departments in Australia (22 neurologists) in a hospital network servicing about one third of Victoria's population. It has substantial undergraduate and postgraduate medical training, teaching and research activities. The spectrum of research is broad, ranging from clinical research to laboratory science.

Associate Professor Bradley Turner, VIC

Associate Professor Bradley Turner heads a research team investigating the molecular basis of selective neuronal vulnerability in MND at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the University of Melbourne. This research group employs biochemical and molecular approaches to study MND pathogenesis in patient-derived specimens and models, as well as transgenic and gene knockout animal models, with a strong focus on preclinical trials. Associate Professor Turner's research interests also extend to childhood spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and Kennedy's disease (KD) which are related to MND.


Professor Steve Vucic, NSW

Professor of Neurology, University of Sydney and Senior Staff specialist in Neurology at Westmead Hospital. Professor Vucic's research interest is in determining the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the development of MND, in particular determining the site of disease onset. In order to address this issue he was part of a team that developed a novel neurophysiological technique for determining cortical function. In addition to furthering the understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms in MND, Professor Vucic's research has potentially resulted in the development of a novel test which can aid in the diagnosis of MND.

Professor Naomi Wray, QLD

Professor Naomi Wray is the co-director of the Centre of Neurogenetics and Statistical Genomics at the Queensland Brain Institute and National Health and Medical Research Council Principal Research Fellow. Naomi and her team study the genetic contribution to a range of common diseases and disorders, such as schizophrenia and motor neurone disease. Together with Associate Professor Ian Blair, Naomi leads  the team awarded the MND Australia Ice Bucket Challenge Grant to establish the Sporadic ALS Australian Systems Genomics Consortium, the largest collaborative MND project to be undertaken in Australia.


Dr Gethin Thomas – Executive Director Research, MND Australia

Gethin has over 20 years of experience as a biomedical researcher in musculoskeletal diseases. He has extensive reviewing experience both as a manuscript reviewer and serving on Australian and international grant review panels. As a Research Manager, he has directed a university Research Office and Higher Degree by Research programs and served as an Associate Dean of Research. He has extensive experience of high-level research strategy as well as a deep understanding of the grant system from the preparation, application and review process through to management of funded projects.

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