Over $2 million in new NHMRC funding for MS researchers in 2019 round.
MS Research Australia congratulates MS researchers, Dr Vilija Jokubaitis (VIC), Associate Professor Tomas Kalincik (VIC) and Professor Melinda Fitzgerald (WA), who have been awarded significant grants in the recently announced National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding for 2019. All three have been previous recipients of MS Research Australia funding and it is wonderful to see this government support for their ongoing research.
Previous recipients of MS Research Australia grants have been successful in securing prestigious and highly competitive funding from the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). We congratulate Dr Vilija Jokubaitis, Associate Professor Tomas Kalincik and Professor Melinda Fitzgerald who have been awarded significant project grant funding totalling over $2.19 million. While it would always be rewarding to see a larger amount coming into MS research, it is wonderful to see this government support for MS Research Australia-funded researchers to further pursue their ongoing research.
Dr Vilija Jokubaitis from Monash University in Melbourne was awarded a three-year MS Research Australia Fellowship in 2017 which supports her salary until 2019. She has received a $470,078 NHMRC project grant to look into the effect of pregnancy on the long-term health outcomes of women with MS. It is known that during pregnancy the immune system is suppressed and MS relapses are uncommon, however, in the first few months following pregnancy the risk of relapse is higher. The long-term impact of this on health outcomes is not well understood and information about the impact of MS therapies for the babies is scarce. Dr Jokubaitis will use ’real-world’ clinical data to assess how pregnancy and therapy use affect the health of women with MS and their babies. This will assist doctors and nurses to give the best evidence-based medical advice for women with MS who are planning their families.
Associate Professor Tomas Kalincik, a neurologist and researcher from the University of Melbourne, was previously awarded a two-year MS Research Australia Fellowship in 2012 and has been going from strength to strength ever since. He recently established his own Clinical Outcomes Research Unit (CORE) and, like Dr Jokubaitis, he specialises in using ‘real-world’ clinical data to better understand disease progression and treatment outcomes in MS. He has been awarded a project grant from the NHMRC which will allow him to delve even deeper into why the response to therapy varies so greatly among people with MS. He will use large MS clinical databases to identify clinical profiles and biomarkers that will enable physicians to optimise treatment for individuals, improving management to avoid the accumulation of preventable disability.
Professor Melinda Fitzgerald from Curtin University in WA, was awarded an MS Research Australia Incubator Grant in 2016. Our incubator grants allow researchers to gather preliminary data to get entirely new research avenues off the ground. On average, researchers have been able to leverage these small $25,000 grants to achieve further funding of over 27 times the original amount. Professor Fitzgerald’s success in achieving a $1.25 million project grant from the NHMRC is a prime example of the power of these small grants.
Professor Fitzgerald will be working across a number of neurodegenerative and demyelinating diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and MS to investigate the mechanisms of nerve damage triggered by loss of the myelin insulation. Her team aims to use this knowledge to design a treatment that may be effective across the spectrum of injury and disease in the brain and spinal cord.
Also extremely encouraging to see in this NHMRC funding round is the sheer number of grants focusing on the fundamental biology of the immune system, particularly as it relates to the control of immune cells in autoimmune conditions. All of these projects will provide vital information to help develop highly targeted therapies to prevent the inflammation and attacks that cause so much damage in MS.
Among these is a large project grant to Professor Shaun McColl who previously led MS Research Australia’s collaborative Proteomics research platform and who’s team member, Dr Iain Comerford, has been the recipient of a MS Research Australia project grant and Fellowship for work directly related to this new NHMRC funding.
We are greatly excited by the potential of all of these grants to help improve our understanding of MS and ultimately provide highly targeted and effective approaches to stop and reverse the effects of MS.