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MS Research Australia 2017 grant successes announced

19th January, 2017

MS Research Australia is delighted to announce a further $1.5 million in research funding for grants commencing in January 2017. The grants cover a range of scientific and allied health disciplines to investigate the many facets of MS biology, treatment and care. These grants were selected following a thorough review of applications by external peer reviewers and our expert Research Management Council.

The number and quality of applications we receive continue to grow year on year, making the funding decisions exceptionally challenging. However, our robust procedures ensure that the most rigorous science, with the greatest potential to make an impact for people affected by MS, can keep moving forward.

The seventeen new project grants, innovative pilot (incubator) grants, scholarships, fellowships and travel awards will run over the next one to three years and brings a new total of 45 ongoing investigator-led projects receiving MS Research Australia funding.

Among the project grants, two are awarded to outstanding, emerging MS research leaders, Dr Tobias Merson at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, Monash University, Melbourne, and Dr Kaylene Young at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, Tasmania. These researchers are pursuing exciting and complementary research projects to understand how nerve activity can be used to promote myelin re-growth and restore lost function in MS. In the recent MS Research Priorities Survey carried out by MS Research Australia, finding a cure for MS (via repair and regeneration of cells) emerged as the top priority for research for the MS community (for more information on the survey results please refer to our article or the full results here).

Associate Professor Tony Hughes and Dr Simon Murray, at the University of Melbourne will be pursuing the development of a potential drug for myelin repair which builds on their previous MS Research Australia-funded work.

Two exceptional young researchers have received three year Fellowships. Dr Grant Parnell, under the guidance of Professor David Booth at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, NSW will work on genes that affect vitamin D metabolism and immune cell function in MS. Dr Vilija Jokubaitis, working with Professor Helmut Butzkueven at the University of Melbourne will investigate whether genetic markers can be used to predict the risk and severity of MS progression, with the ultimate aim of developing the best personalised treatment strategies for individuals with MS.

Dr Jennifer Massey, a neurologist in training, has been awarded a PhD scholarship to conduct research with Dr Ian Sutton and Associate Professor John Moore at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney. She will examine the immune cell changes that occur in people who have received Autologous Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (AHSCT) for MS, to better understand how these changes relate to the clinical outcomes and MRI changes seen following the treatment. This will help clinicians understand which patients are most likely to respond to this intensive form of treatment and may also lead to improved ways to ‘reset’ the immune system without the need for chemotherapy.

A project grant to Dr Phu Hoang, a physiotherapist and researcher at Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney, will support his clinical trial to investigate a novel exercise therapy designed to address the common and debilitating symptom of ankle contractures (ankle stiffness) experienced by many people with MS, to improve mobility.

Full details of these projects and all the new research funded in 2017 can be found on our website here