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Neurology Networking and International Strategic Thinking

The MS Research Australia research team recently attended the annual conference of the Australian New Zealand Association of Neurologists held this year in Darwin.

While all fields of neurology are covered at the conference, the event is a significant opportunity in the Australian calendar for clinicians with an interest in MS to come together to share information on the treatment and care of people with MS and to consolidate research collaborations. For MS Research Australia it is a fantastic opportunity to connect face-to-face with the clinician researchers with whom we collaborate and meet the young up-and-coming MS clinician researchers of the future.

This year, it was also exciting to have one of the leading minds in the international field of MS, Professor Gavin Giovannoni from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK, as a keynote speaker. He was put hard to work by the conference organisers, delivering three keynote presentations on identifying MS as early as possible, potentially even before symptoms appear, maximising lifelong brain health through the MS Brain Health Initiative’s drive for policy change in the management of MS, and the global efforts to trial new drugs and approaches to treat progressive MS.

Professor Giovannoni’s presence also allowed MS Research Australia to convene a meeting of our International Research Review Board. This board provides guidance and feedback to MS Research Australia on our research strategy and funding programs to help optimise our approach to capitalise on Australia’s MS research strengths and maximise our contribution to the global effort to solve MS.

The Board is chaired by Professor Bill Carroll (Perth) and includes members Professor Trevor Kilpatrick (Melbourne), Professor Gavin Giovannoni (UK) and Professor Richard Ransohoff (USA) (Richard was unable to attend this meeting). Professor Simon Broadley, Chair of MS Research Australia’s Research Management Council (the expert panel which reviews all MS Research Australia grants) also attended the meeting.

The group discussed several key themes in which Australia has considerable strengths and opportunities to contribute to the global research effort. A particular focus was that Australia has a unique combination of access to the full spectrum of MS medications and a very cohesive clinician researcher community. Australia’s clinician-researchers have significant expertise and comprehensive data collections that can be used for clinical research. This combination provides many opportunities to deeply examine treatment responses, identify markers that predict complete control of a person’s disease and ultimately contribute to making effective personalised medicine a reality of people with MS.

We greatly appreciate the contribution of this voluntary Board to MS Research Australia’s strong research governance and look forward to further productive discussions in the future.

Professor Giovannoni was also very generous in giving us some of his time to discuss some of the big themes and research campaigns that he is pursuing – you can view the interview here.

The ANZAN conference also coincided with World MS Day and it was incredibly gratifying to see the amazing support we received from delegates and industry representatives who took time out from the serious business of the conference to celebrate the day. The group collectively put on their red lipstick war paint to show solidarity with people with MS who put on their ‘game face’ every day, dealing with the invisible symptoms of MS – these clinicians and researchers are working hard to help Kiss Goodbye to MS.

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Neurology Networking and International Strategic Thinking