Macquarie University Centre for Motor Neuron Disease Research

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Project Details


The MND research program is the culmination of our collective desire to beat this dreadful disease that results in the death of more than 700 Australians per annum. In early 2013, we took the leap-of-faith to come together from five different institutions (many of us had not worked together previously) to form the laboratory research pipeline to link with Prof Dominic Rowe’s MND clinic, which was one of the first clinics that opened when Macquarie University Hospital launched in 2010. We bought together some of Australia’s leading MND researchers with experts from complementary research disciplines to collectively build an integrated and collaborative workflow to make breakthrough advances in understanding the origins of MND. At start-up, our research program comprised approximately 20 FTE researchers and students. We have grown substantially, in July 2019 the Centre for MND Research hosts over 90 research personnel including 27 postdoctoral fellows and 18 HDR students. We have established Australia’s (and one of the world’s) largest longitudinal MND biobanks, where patients and their families generously provide samples (including blood, skin biopsies, urine and hair) during their regular clinic visits. In the 2017-18 reporting period, the Centre produced over 150 original research publications in international peer reviewed journals. Highlights include publications in Nature Communications, Neuron, and New England Journal of Medicine. Grant success has continued in this period, highlights include 18 NHMRC grants and fellowships providing >$6m in funding. The Centre hosted two clinical trials in this period, directed by Prof Rowe, the CuATSM trial and the Lighthouse Trial; a novel trial of antiretroviral therapy, which was the first site in the world to trial this therapy in MND. The Centre also launched and hosted the annual “Macquarie Neurodegeneration Meeting”, a national conference attended by over 150 delegates in both 2018 and 2019. The overarching objective of the Centre for Motor Neuron Disease Research is to improve the lives of patients with MND, and their families. There is a desperate need to better understand the molecular and cellular basis of MND and related diseases (including frontotemporal dementia), and to develop more effective diagnostic tools and treatments. MND leads to paralysis of voluntary muscles due to the progressive death of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. The prognosis of MND is appalling, usually leading to death within 2 to 5 years of first symptoms on average. Currently, diagnosis takes up to a year or more and largely relies upon observing disease progression. Only two therapeutic strategies are available, which extend life by a few months. Hence there is an urgent unmet need to better understand the disease so more effective therapeutic strategies can be designed. The biological origins of MND are complex and heterogeneous. Indeed, we now recognise that many different origins of motor neuron degeneration ultimately lead to MND. This is an enormous challenge for developing new tools and strategies for diagnosis and treatment. This challenge can only be tackled through collaborative multidisciplinary research linking basic science with clinical care. To this end, we established the Macquarie University Centre for MND Research, home to Australia’s largest clinical and research program in MND. Coupled with the large MND clinic at Macquarie, the Centre has also established Australia’s larg
Effective start/end date1/01/2031/12/22