$1 million donation for MND research

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The University of Melbourne and its research partners have received a $1 million philanthropic grant via the Motor Neurone Disease Research Institute of Australia, the research arm of MND Australia.The grant is a generous gift from John and Betty Laidlaw, the founders of the iconic Hard Yakka clothing line. Mr Laidlaw’s wife, Betty, has motor neurone disease (MND).

Motor neurone disease is a rapidly progressive, terminal disease that can strike anyone. More than 2000 Australians currently live with the illness.

People with MND progressively lose the use of their arms and legs, their ability to speak, swallow and breathe. Average life expectancy is less than three years and there is no effective treatment and no cure.

The University of Melbourne team and its partners are working towards human trials of a drug – copper ATSM - that shows promise for slowing the symptoms in people with the genetic type of MND.

But given there is a genetic link in fewer than 10 per cent of MND cases, much more research is needed to test the drug’s suitability for all patients with the disease.

Dr Peter Crouch, from the University of Melbourne’s School of Biomedical Sciences said the funding is crucial to this work.

“The challenge for every biomedical researcher is getting funding. This donation will allow us to expand our efforts for three more years,” he said. “If we could one day get to a stage where a drug could stop the symptoms of MND, that would be amazing.”

Janet Nash, Executive Director Research, MND Australia said the only way an effective treatment will be discovered is with more research.

“Peter Crouch has gathered a team of national and international collaborators whose combined expertise will bring us closer to understanding how copper ATSM can be used to alter the course of MND,” Ms Nash said.

“John and Betty Laidlaw’s generous gift provides real hope that an effective treatment for MND can be found.”

David Ali, President, MND Australia added: “On behalf of MND Australia and the MND community, I extend my sincere thanks to John and Betty Laidlaw for this magnificent and truly generous gift.”

Research partners include the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, The University of Technology Sydney, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Oregon State University and Monash University.