NHMRC invests over $12 million in groundbreaking medical research for MS

11 January 2024

  • The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has recently announced new grant funding commencing this year.
  • Over $12 million has been invested into groundbreaking medical research into MS.
  • The funded projects will investigate immune dysfunction in MS, changes in MS during pregnancy for treatment development, detecting subtle progression for personalised care, exploring the impact of diet, the gut microbiome, and metabolism on regulating inflammation in MS, and further understanding the role of gene changes in the development of MS.

Over $12 million dollars will be invested into MS research by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in their funding scheme. MS Australia congratulates MS researchers Associate Professor Vilija Jokubaitis (VIC), Professor Tomas Kalincik (VIC) and Associate Professor Laura Piccio (NSW) who have received Investigator Grants.  The Investigator Grant combines salary and research support into one grant, which is now provided over a five-year period.

Congratulations also go to Professor Kaylene Young (TAS) who has received an Ideas Grant, which supports innovative research projects addressing a specific question for up to five years.

Dr Melissa Chu (VIC) received a postgraduate scholarship, allowing her to complete postgraduate research degree over three years.

Significant grants of this nature are a welcome development in supporting Australian researchers to develop longer-term research programs, allowing flexibility to pursue important new research directions as they arise. Most of these researchers have been previous recipients of MS Australia funding and it is fantastic to see that they are receiving support from the government for their ongoing research into MS.

Associate Professor Vilija Jokubaitis from Monash University was previously awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship to use genetics to predict future outcomes in people living with MS. Her work also focuses understanding the effects of pregnancy in MS, and has provided a clearer picture on the interaction between MS and pregnancy and the effects of modern MS therapies on relapses during pregnancy. She has now received a $2,769,655 Investigator Grant from the NHMRC to examine the changes to the immune system, as well as the brain and spinal cord in pregnancy. The aim of this work will be to identify new treatments that protect the nerves and regulate the immune system for MS.

Professor Tomas Kalincik from the University of Melbourne was awarded a Paired Fellowship from MS Australia in 2022 which revolves around the detection, measurement, and treatment of subtle progression of MS, especially amongst people who are at the highest risk of silent deterioration of their disease. He has now received a $2,897,165 Investigator Grant from the NHMRC to extend this research. The project will use clinical cohorts, clinical trials and large registries to diagnose subtle progression in MS and optimise the use of therapy to counter it. This work will help guide individual choice of therapy and long-term treatment pathways.

Associate Professor Laura Piccio from the University of Sydney was awarded a project grant from MS Australia in 2023 to investigate the molecular mechanisms that support myelin repair in the brain and spinal cord. She has been awarded a $2,897,165 Investigator Grant from the NHMRC to dissect the potential roles of diet, gut microbiome, and metabolism in regulating inflammation in the brain and spinal cord across different neurodegenerative diseases, including MS. She will evaluate the effects of marked and prolonged weight loss on brain imaging, blood markers and brain and spinal cord markers of inflammation.

Professor Kaylene Young from the University of Tasmania was awarded a Senior Fellowship from MS Australia in 2022 to carry out research to identify signalling pathways that lead to the development of MS, learn how brain circuit function is impacted by MS, and design and translate treatments to protect and repair the brain. She has been awarded a $3,653,278 Ideas Grant from the NHMRC to determine how a person’s genes, environment and lifestyle choices influence the onset and severity of MS. Professor Young and her team are currently studying families with multiple members living with MS and have identified genetic changes carried by people with MS which may change their brain cell function. This funding will allow the team to determine how brain cells are affected by the genetic changes.

Dr Melissa Chu from the University of Melbourne received a $105,622 Postgraduate Scholarship from the NHMRC to investigate the role of unconventional T cells, a type of immune cell, in immune dysfunction in people living with with MS. Ultimately the aim of this project is to improve the understanding of how the immune system malfunctions in MS and identify therapeutic targets for treatment, particularly in the areas of progressive disease and disease prevention.

Congratulations to these MS researchers on their well-served funding! We look forward to the outcomes of these grants to help improve our understanding of MS as we work towards the pathways to cures.

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NHMRC invests over $12 million in groundbreaking medical research for MS