Research boost to fight MND

Two leading neurodegenerative disease experts Prof Peter Crack and A/Prof Peter Crouch have each secured funding from the FightMND Cure Fund – one of the world’s largest funders of MND research.

Affecting the motor neurons responsible for muscle movement, Motor Neuron Disease (MND), also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a group of neurodegenerative disorders. Despite dedicated research, genetic discoveries and clinical trials a cause and cure has still not been found.

Since 2014 FightMND has invested over $69 million into vital MND research making it one of the one of the world’s largest independent funders of MND research. This year, FightMND will invest over $20 million - with $16 million going into vital MND research projects identified through their competitive grant program.

FightMND Co-Founder and Patron, Neale Daniher, told the Herald Sun the funding will allow even more people to pursue innovative research.

…we know we are making inroads to ‘beat the beast’...the funding provides hope and direction for all of us living with this disease, and as a FightMND Patron I’m incredibly proud that some of the smartest minds in Australia are at the forefront of this battle.

[Neale Daniher]

Professor Peter Crack and Associate Professor Peter Crouch, from the School of Biomedical Sciences, were both successful in this year's program and have been awarded funding to accelerate their research projects towards finding a cure.

Prof Peter Crack is Head of the Neuropharmacology Laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry & Pharmacology. His group’s research is focused on the mechanisms of cell death seen in neural injury and the effect of oxidative stress and neuroinflammation in contributing to death of neural cells.

The project to be funded by FightMND will look at developing new inhibitors of the protein ‘Stimulator of Interferon Genes’ (STING). It's a protein that plays a role in the immune response and is implicated in neuroinflammation seen in MND.

By inhibiting STING, we aim to control the neuroinflammatory response and potentially slow down or halt the progression of MND.

[Prof Peter Crack]

Prof Crack said the development of STING inhibitors will fill an unmet need in terms MND therapeutics but will also provide new insights into the role of neuroinflammation in the disease process.

FightMND’s unwavering support and generous contribution to finding a cure for MND will make a significant impact to our research program and allows us to continue the promising line of research we have established in finding new drugs to fight MND.

A/Prof Peter Crouch is Head of the Crouch Laboratory and a leading expert in degenerative diseases of the central nervous system particularly Motor Neurone Disease and multiple sclerosis. Peter was interviewed by the Herald Sun last week  and said the FightMND funding would "change the landscape".

Using the FightMND funding the Crouch Lab will look at a new compound and its potential as a treatment for ALS, involving inhibition of a specific mitochondrial enzyme.

"Mitochondria produce the chemical energy that sustains life. Their function is altered in the ALS-affected brain and spinal cord and this has detrimental ramifications for energy-hungry motor neurons," said Peter Crouch.

Image: mitochondria

Related compounds have produced promising outcomes and the new compound we will examine exhibits superior capacity to reach the brain and spinal cord - an essential requirement for ALS drugs.

[A/Prof Peter Crouch]

The group will determine whether this new compound can provide the outcomes essential for progressing a new drug therapy for ALS, including increased survival, protection of vulnerable motor neurons, and improved motor function.

Fight MND's funding announcement, featuring A/Prof Peter Crouch, was covered by both the Herald Sun and Channel 7 News last week.

Image: FightMND visit Crouch Lab with media

“We know what we need to do, we know how to do it, by getting this funding it now means we’ve got the opportunity to do the work," Peter said in his interview with the Herald Sun.

About FightMND

FightMND not only fund research into finding effective treatments and a cure but also care support. They have established fundraising events like the annual BigFreeze event held in June each year which sees iconic Australians take on an ice bath challenge at the MCG to raise money for the disease.

One of the 'sliders' from last year's event, former AFL Captain, David Neitz, was interviewed this week by Channel 7 on a visit to A/Prof Peter Crouch's lab at the University of Melbourne.

Image: David Neitz interviewed by Channel 7 in Medical Building, UniMelb