As 2020 comes to a close, two words come to mind: extraordinary and challenging.
The beginning of the year unfolded with devastating bushfires and then the COVID-19 global pandemic. The MS Research Australia team didn’t waver. They were determined to stay focused and even increased our commitments to MS research in this challenging environment.
Before COVID-19 we were undertaking steps to introduce a new governance model, merging MS Australia and MS Research Australia. The rationalisation of the two organisations has already reaped several efficiencies with more to come. Part of that process has been an extensive and thorough recruitment process to identify a new CEO to guide the newly focused and amalgamated MS Australia and I am proud to announce that advocacy and public affairs specialist Mr Rohan Greenland has been appointed. We look forward to him starting on the 14th December.
With a large number of people with MS taking immune modulating therapies, the emergence of the novel coronavirus did cause a lot of concern. The Board acted quickly to approve $100,000 to enable Australian researchers to participate in an international data collaboration capturing information regarding COVID-19 and its impact on people with MS globally, this helped generate evidence based guidelines for people with MS and their health care teams.
Rolling lockdowns also put a number of MS research projects in jeopardy. We quickly made available an additional $275,000 to a number of existing projects which were facing extensive disruptions and delays due to COVID-19. This allocation of financial support and time extension of a further six months will see the continuation and completion of these important investigations.
In the 2020 calendar year with your incredible assistance, we raised over $10.5 million to fund and facilitate major MS research projects and collaborations. The May 50K campaign was an unprecedented success and combined with our valuable donors and significant contributions from the MS Society of SA and NT, MS Limited, and MS WA we reached a record high fundraising year. At MS Australia and MS Research Australia, we never forget that none of this is possible without everyday Australians contributing to improve the health and social outcomes of people with MS and in finding, the allusive cure.
Incredibly, The May 50K attracted over 26,500 participants and raised over $6.6 million which will be invested in future ground-breaking MS research. This year also saw The May 50K launched globally as we work closer with our partner research organisations around the world to help pool the best brains and resources to enhance MS research around the world.
Another milestone was the PBS approval of siponimod (Mayzent), the first approved treatment for secondary progressive MS. There are now 14 MS medications available in Australia. This would not have been possible without incredible MS research being conducted around the world. Much work remains to be done and we will continue to advocate so that MS treatments can be listed on the PBS to ensure people with MS have affordable access to the widest possible choice of medications to treat their MS.
Lastly, as a person living with MS and Chair of the Board, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge your magnificent assistance and sincerely thank you for your support. I wish you a safe and prosperous 2021.