MS Research Australia’s annual research grant program in 2016 enabled two promising researchers to undertake international travel with the aim of extending their skills and expertise, whilst collaborating with leading international MS experts. The award is named after Ian Ballard, the founder of MS Research Australia’s former grassroots fundraising campaign Foundation 5 Million.
Dr Hannah Gullo from The University of Queensland, QLD, established a new collaboration with the world-leading cognition researchers at the Kessler Foundation, New Jersey, USA. During her stay Dr Gullo met with Drs DeLuca, Strober, Chiaravalloti and Goverover, who are researching rehabilitation techniques to improve learning and memory in people with MS. One of the highlights of Dr Gullo’s collaboration was using the team’s expertise to help evaluate a program that uses Smartwatches to collect data that will be used for cognitive studies into MS.
Dr Lucinda Black from Curtin University, WA, travelled to California to collaborate with Dr Annette Langer-Gould and her team at the Kaiser Permanente Research Centre. Dr Black is investigating dietary vitamin D, its processing in the body and the risk of developing MS using the Ausimmune study. During her visit, she learnt new important statistical methods that will help her to tease apart the relationship between dietary intake and disease outcomes using the data from the Ausimmune study. She also wrote two co-authoured papers (yet to be published) and grant applications for future collaborative studies for the USA National MS Society and the National Institute of Health (USA). The collaboration has also spurred the idea of working together to train the next generation of MS researchers through the shared supervision of a PhD student who will undertake an important study to analyse combined data from the Australian Ausimmune study and the US-based MS Sunshine Forward Study.
Developing these international collaborations will continue to place Australian researchers at the forefront of research into MS, and will allow their results to have a greater impact for people with MS worldwide.