The stellar achievements of the Perron Institute’s Founding Director, Emeritus Professor Byron Kakulas AO were recalled as news of his death at 90 was shared yesterday.
“Professor Kakulas was a leader who changed the landscape of neurology and neuroscience in Western Australia and influenced the direction of international research,” said Perron Institute Board Chairman Rob McKenzie.
“His research contributions were extensive and his pioneering work on paralytic disease in the Rottnest Island quokka produced a finding of momentous importance, suggesting the potential for therapies to achieve muscle regeneration in people with muscle wasting diseases.
“This laid the foundation for subsequent research by Professors Steve Wilton AO and Sue Fletcher AO at the Perron Institute and The University of Western Australia that resulted in the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
“Throughout his distinguished career, Emeritus Professor Kakulas pursued his vision with a level of dedication and passion that has been truly impressive.
“His legacy of advancements in the neurosciences field endures and the example he has set for young researchers in the importance of keeping an open, inquiring mind and being prepared to persist will continue to encourage and inspire.
“He was still working every day at the Perron Institute until just before Christmas.
“We extend our sincere condolences to his wife Valerie and family at this difficult time,” the Chairman said.
Emeritus Professor Kakulas graduated in medicine from the University of Adelaide in 1956 and completed his residency training at Royal Perth Hospital, going on to specialise in clinical neurology. He undertook further study to achieve a specialist qualification in pathology.
He was appointed Professor of Neuropathology at The University of Western Australia in 1971, Dean of Medicine in 1978 and an Emeritus Professor in 2006.
In 1967, he founded the Muscular Dystrophy Association of WA, and in 1982, the Australian Neuromuscular Research Institute which later became the Perron Institute.
Emeritus Professor Kakulas trained and mentored a generation of Australian neuropathologists and many from overseas and received many honours and awards, including Officer of the Order of Australia, an Honorary Doctorate of the University of Athens, the Gaetano Conte Prize of the Naples Conte Academy, and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Federation of Neurology.
With an enduring commitment to serving the community, he was also a Paul Harris Fellow in Rotary.