Brain neurons

$2.65 million to further Motor Neurone Disease research  

9 December 2022
Sydney researchers among recipients of FightMND funding.
Three Brain and Mind Centre researchers have been awarded a collective $2.6m to help find better treatments for Motor Neurone Disease.

Professor Matthew Kiernan, Dr Sicong Tu and Dr Rachel Tan from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre have  received almost 20 percent of FightMND’s latest funding into Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

MND is a debilitating disease, which affects the nerve cells that control the muscles for movement, speech, swallowing and breathing. The funding will support four projects including clinical trials, MND brain imaging, the proteins linked to MND, and a mid-career fellowship. 

Professor Matthew Kiernan, Co-Director of the Brain and Mind Centre is the principal investigator of a clinical trial of an investigative drug and its effectiveness on MND patients.

The phase-three clinical trial is a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial – a sub-study of a Multi-arm, Adaptive, Groupsequential trial NETwork to evaluate drug efficacy in patients with MND (MAGNET). The study has received more than $1.2 million. 

Professor Kiernan said: "The MAGNET clinical trial will launch precision medicine in MND, by establishing whether we can use an individual’s genetic signature to determine if they are more likely to benefit from the investigative drug’s neuroprotective effects."

Dr Sicong Tu, Lenity Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer based at the Brain and Mind Centre, is the lead researcher on the Asia-pacific MND Imaging Initiative (AMII). He says that one of the most exciting things about this project, which has been granted almost $500,000, is what the collaboration will enable. The project will connect leading Australian imaging researchers with leading MND clinicians to create a new national resource, through the Brain and Mind Centre, to enhance Australian MND imaging biomarkers. 

Dr Rachel Tan, Senior Research Fellow at the Brain and Mind Centre, has received over $200,000 from the Paul Fisher Impact Grant – Disease Heterogeneity, for a project that looks at the proteins involved in the pathogenesis and causes of sporadic MND.  With age of onset, type and speed of MND being so varied, much is still unknown about the underlying biological pathways affected, and how these cause targeted breakdown of motor neuronal networks. 

Dr Tan has also received a four-year mid-career fellowship of over $679,000 to help strengthen her research team and independent programs, and build collaborations to embed themselves as key players in the MND research sector.