Perron Institute motor neurone disease research boost from FightMND

Further funding from Australian motor neurone disease foundation FightMND will support MND research at WA’s Perron Institute.

Two research projects have shared a total of $500,000 in the latest round of grants. This follows a grant of $1 million from FightMND in 2020.

Motor neurone disease is a progressive neurological disorder that destroys motor neurons, the cells in the central nervous system that control skeletal muscle activity such as walking, breathing, speaking and swallowing. There is no cure, and this uncommon but devastating disease is invariably fatal.

Up to 10 percent of MND cases are familial, but most are sporadic. Age of onset, where in the body the disease begins and duration vary.

Well-known AFL footballer Neale Daniher was diagnosed with MND in 2013. As co-founder and Patron of FightMND he has been highly successful in raising awareness of this cruel disease and his charity has raised more than $63 million for research and care equipment for people living with MND.

In this latest round of FightMND grants, Principal Investigator Professor Anthony Akkari (Perron Institute and the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Innovative Therapeutics at Murdoch University) and his team have been awarded $250,000 to identify new genetic markers for MND clinical trials.

“Genetics can significantly impact variability in MND, with growing evidence suggesting that exploring difficult to access regions of the human genome can uncover complex disease mechanisms,” Professor Akkari said. “Establishing molecular targets and more genetic markers could improve patient stratification for clinical trials by identifying patient sub-groups.”

In this project, Professor Akkari’s co-investigators include Frances Theunissen (Perron Institute and CMMIT, Murdoch University) and researchers at King’s College London, and additional investigators include Perron affiliated researchers at Murdoch University, University of Notre Dame and University of Western Australia, including Dr Loren Flynn (Perron Institute and CMMIT, Murdoch University).

With the support of last year’s $1million grant from FightMND, a team led by Professor Steve Wilton (Perron Institute and CMMIT, Murdoch University) is seeking to develop a drug to target a damaged protein called SOD1 in collaboration with researchers at the Florey Institute.

The second $250,000 FightMND grant for 2021 will be used to understand the genetics of MND by co-developing targeted gene therapies to address primary triggers and causes.

Co-investigators are Professor Akkari and Dr Flynn. They are collaborating with Principal Investigator Associate Professor Lezanne Ooi (University of Wollongong). Other co-investigators are Dr Sam Brennan (GenieUs Genomics, Sydney), Associate Professor Seth Masters (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne) and Associate Professor Bradley Turner (Florey Institute, Melbourne).

Pictured: L-R: Frances (Frankie) Theunissen, Dr Loren Flynn and Prof Anthony Akkari in the Perron Institute lab.