FightMND invests in Florey research

Researchers from The Florey say generous funding from FightMND will accelerate development of potential treatments for motor neurone disease.

The funding is part of FightMND’s record investment of $20.2 million into motor neurone disease (MND) research and care initiatives for people with MND.

Co-founded by AFL legend Neale Daniher AO in 2014, FightMND is now one of the world’s largest independent funders of MND research, having invested $95.37 million.

Florey researchers Dr Thanuja Dharmadasa, Professor Brad Turner and Dr Fazel Shabanpoor are behind five of the 23 projects funded through FightMND’s competitive grant round.

Dr Dharmadasa received $2 million through a clinical investigator award and two research grants.

A brain imaging expert, Dr Dharmadasa will use the funding to pursue projects that use MRI technology to study patients’ brains and their responses to treatments.

“I am incredibly grateful for this funding from FightMND – this support is what allows us, as researchers, to think outside the box, be innovative and use the best resources and tools available to fight this complex disease, which gives us our best chance towards a cure.”

Professor Brad Turner and Dr Thanuja Dharmadasa

Professor Turner received $1 million through the Daniel McLoone Major Research Initiative, co–funded with MND Australia.

Professor Turner said: “Thanuja’s funding will build clinical trial capacity for MND in Australia while my funding will be used to build a national collaborative drug development network using innovative human stem cell technology and animal models to accelerate development of new drugs in readiness for clinical trials. We thank both FightMND and MND Research Australia for their tremendous support.”

Dr Shabanpoor, a medicinal biochemist, received $550,000 to develop gene-based drugs.

“I am grateful to have received this funding which allows us to utilise two cutting-edge technologies to develop an innovative and first-in-class gene-based drug to prevent the degeneration of motor neurons and ultimately, halt or significantly slow the progression of the MND,” he said.

The Victorian Brain Bank, which is part of The Florey, received $82,000 to support and strengthen its operations.

FightMND Director of Cure Research and Programs, Dr Bec Sheean said the funding is game-changing, not just for the researcher community, but also for Australians living with MND.

“Thanks to our supporters, Australians with MND have more opportunities to participate in research than ever before and more hope for that promising discovery or breakthrough we need. The incredible support of the Australian public and the FightMND Army has generated a momentum in research and highlighted the strength of Australia’s MND research community, globally,” Dr Sheean said.

FightMND patron Neale Daniher said the record announcement was only possible thanks to the support of everyone who had donated online, bought a FightMND beanie, socks or a scarf, and the generosity of partners and stakeholders.

“We know we are making inroads to ‘beat the beast’, but it is time consuming and expensive, and this funding will allow even more very clever people to really pursue some amazing and innovative research.”