Federal Government funding boost
MS Research Australia would like to congratulate the MS team at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Hobart, Tasmania on the recently announced $10 million in Federal Government funding for its collaborative MS Flagship research program, which came as part of a major health funding package for Tasmania.
A collaborative approach
The Menzies Institute is looking at various aspects of MS including genetics, environmental triggers for MS, myelin repair and clinical research. Over the years MS Research Australia has worked very closely with the Menzies Institute and the MS team led by Professor Bruce Taylor, a world-leading MS neurologist and researcher, plus contributed over $2.5 million to the Menzies Institute via 18 investigator-led research grants to members of the team.
Investment to speed up the rate of progress
One of these grants was the inaugural MS Research Australia-Macquarie Group Foundation Paired Fellowship, awarded to Professor Taylor and myelin repair researcher, Dr Kaylene Young, to support them in a program linking the clinic and laboratory to fast track clinical research outcomes.
In addition, a further $900,000 has been invested in the Menzies Institute through its integral roles in several national collaborative research platforms funded and supported by MS Research Australia. In 2014, Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei assumed the management and research functions of the MS Research Australia owned and funded Australian MS Longitudinal Study, a survey-based research platform that examines the practical and quality of life issues for people living with MS.
Advocacy based on research findings
MS Research Australia has also worked with The Health Economics team at the Menzies Institute, led by Professor Andrew Palmer, to produce two major reports on the Health Economic Impact of MS in Australia in 2017 and back in 2010. These reports have utilised data from the Australian MS Longitudinal Study and have been major tools for advocacy for people with MS, driving services, policies and further focusing research efforts on the areas that matter most to people with MS.
Working together to make new discoveries
Several members of the Menzies Institute team have been integral in the ANZgene MS Genetics Consortium, which helped in the international discoveries of the nearly 200 genes that contribute to the risk of developing MS.
The AusImmune study, which was co-funded by the US National MS Society and MS Research Australia, has provided much of the evidence on the triggers and risk factors for the development of MS including smoking, low UV light exposure, vitamin D deficiency and the Epstein Barr Virus. Some of this evidence led directly to the national drive to establish a clinical trial to prevent MS for people at very high risk in the MS Research Australia-funded and managed Vitamin D MS Prevention Trial – PrevANZ. Professor Taylor is the co-Principal Investigator on this trial, together with Professor Helmut Butzkueven from Monash University.
In recent years, the Menzies Institute has combined all of these strengths and streams of research into a highly integrated program of work under its MS flagship banner. It has strong plans for national and international collaborations and translation of research for more impact for people with MS. These plans will lead to an acceleration of research discoveries from the laboratory into the clinic. Conversely, observations and results from its clinical research will drive and inform its laboratory-based research programs so that research conducted in the lab is laser-focused on the most intractable problems that clinicians face in helping their patients manage MS.
Dr Matthew Miles, CEO of MS Research Australia, commented, “It is incredibly rewarding and exciting to see this major Government support for the Menzies Institute. MS Research Australia’s investment in the team together with their ability to secure international and Australian NHMRC grants, has really paid off. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with them as they build momentum and work with our MS research colleagues around the country to progress our joint goal of stopping and reversing MS”.