Twenty multiple sclerosis (MS) scientific research teams across the country will receive an important New Year funding injection this week with MS Research Australia/MS Australia today announcing a major $2.9M grants program that will ensure critical research projects get underway to uncover new ways to investigate, manage and treat MS.
The substantial grant program is thanks to the record-breaking fundraising efforts of Australia’s MS community which last year went against a significant overall decline in charitable donations from COVID-19. Despite the start of the pandemic and lock-down around the country, MS Research Australia’s fundraising initiative – The May 50K – saw 26,500 participants run and walk 50km in the month of May for MS.
Newly appointed CEO of MS Australia, Rohan Greenland says; “Maintaining momentum in MS research in this country is our absolute priority, so we are extremely proud to be announcing the recipients of our Investigator led grants program today. These researchers are incredibly talented, and it is our priority to help our research community keep their labs open and continue their world-class research so we can stop and reverse the effects of MS.”
“Since inception MS Research Australia has invested over $47 million into MS research, supporting 10 major collaborative platforms and 327 investigator-led projects like the ones we are announcing today. This would not happen without our amazing MS community and the outstanding example they set in raising funds to directly support Australian research. We thank each and every one for their ongoing energy and support,” he adds.
The $2.9 million grants program will be provided to 20 new projects recognised by MS Research Australia/MS Australia as important priorities requiring funding. The initiatives include investigations into the causes and prevention of MS, better treatments via repair and regeneration of cells, and more effective monitoring of disease activity.
Around 90% of researchers believe there are going to be delays in research milestones as a result of COVID-19, so the provision of local MS research grants has been welcomed by the research community – including grant recipient and one of Australia’s leading researchers Professor Rodney Scott from the Hunter Medical Research Institute, University of Newcastle, in NSW. Professor Scott is aiming to develop a biomarker test to track disease activity in MS patients.
“MS is a complex disease which is often difficult to diagnose and challenging to manage. We therefore hope our investigations can lead to improved monitoring of disease activity which will minimise irreversible damage to patients’ brains and spinal cords,” says Professor Scott.
“Our work is dependent on funding from research bodies like MS Research Australia and ultimately the generosity of donors, so we are incredibly thankful to the MS community for ensuring our research project can happen, particularly in such challenging times,” he adds.
Dr Vivienne Guan from the University of Wollongong has been awarded a post-doctoral fellowship which will be allowing her team to develop and evaluate a mobile phone app to support people living with MS to self-manage food choices in line with current Australian dietary guidelines. For people living with MS, this may relieve some of the cognitive stress associated with planning and co-ordinating food choices on a daily basis.
Dr Guan says, “I am so grateful to MS Research Australia for this funding. We believe it’s extremely important to keep our research efforts going even during these difficult times. The fact the MS community acknowledges the importance of our research makes this grant even more special to us.”