Excellent outcomes for Australian MS research through the NHMRC

18 November, 2015

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have recently announced the successful Australian research projects and fellowships that were awarded funding for 2016. Six new MS research projects were announced in this year’s funding round, bringing over $3.2 million of funding for MS research over the next three to five years.

The new MS projects encompass a range of exciting research domains, including several projects exploring ways to promote the growth and repair of myelin in the brain, immune system function and the environmental risk factors for MS. All of these projects are outstanding additions to the breadth of research underway in Australia, helping us to understand more about MS and how it may be treated or prevented.

Professor Robyn Lucas, from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population health at the Australian National University, and Professor Anne-Louise Ponsonby, from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Victoria, were both awarded five year NHMRC Fellowships. Both Professor Lucas and Professor Ponsonby are key researchers on the long-running Ausimmune study that played a pivotal role in our understanding of the importance of sun exposure and Vitamin D in MS risk, and they are on the Steering Committee of the PrevANZ vitamin D MS prevention trial. Professor Lucas also received MS Research Australia funding last year for a project to support her efforts to optimise vitamin D measurement in the blood, and this Fellowship will support her continued work to develop guidelines for safe sun exposure in different populations. Professor Ponsonby’s NHMRC Fellowship will support her work exploring environmental causes for the increasing rates of autoimmune and allergic disorders.

Dr David Gonsalvez, from the University of Melbourne, received an Early Career Fellowship to investigate new methods to promote the growth and repair of myelin in MS by blocking a chemical called β-catenin. Dr Gonsalvez works in the laboratory of Dr Simon Murray, an established MS researcher who also received a three year NHMRC Project Grant. This NHMRC grant will allow him to continue his work, previously funded by MS Research Australia, to investigate the potential of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) for myelin repair.

Dr Shin Foong Ngiow, an early career researcher from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, received a three year Early Career Fellowship. He will investigate how T cells could be manipulated to develop new treatments for autoimmune disorders such as MS.

Professor Colby Zaph, from Monash University in Victoria, received a three year Project Grant to support his work studying the role of CD4 T cells in autoimmune diseases, in particular looking at  whether a chemical called G9a may be manipulated to better control immune system functioning.

A number of additional grants were also awarded to other autoimmune and immunology-related research, that may help shed light on how the immune system works and how it is affected in autoimmune diseases generally, which will have flow on benefits for the understanding of MS.

For example, Professor Karlheinz Peter from the Baker IDI Institute in Melbourne, received a Project Grant to further support his work investigating the role of platelets as a potential biomarker for disease activity in inflammatory diseases such as heart disease. This grant follows on from his 2015 MS Research Australia Project Grant with support from CharityWorks for MS looking at the role of platelets in MS.

MS Research Australia congratulates all the researchers for their success in obtaining this exceedingly competitive and prestigious government funding. For a full list of NHMRC funding please visit www.nhmrc.gov.au.

NHMRC Postgraduate scholarships will be announced later this year and the MS Research Australia Research Management Council are also finalising their deliberations over the grant applications received in 2015.

For more information on how MS Research Australia reviews grant applications and allocates funding please visit http://www.msra.org.au/selecting-most-appropriate-ms-research-projects-fund

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