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Spotlight on research: Investing in innovation

Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state but two adjoining institutes in Hobart at the University of Tasmania consistently attract grant funding from the MND Research Institute of Australia for an ever-growing team of productive researchers who are working their way up the ladder of research success.

Professor Tracey Dickson at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research commented: "For the central nervous system to work properly there must be critical regulation of the millions of connections, or synapses, between nerve cells. Researchers at Menzies have shown that in MND this regulation is missing, leading to abnormal activity and ultimately neuron dysfunction and degeneration. With this new knowledge, we are now trialling ways to stop this cascade – and stop MND!"

Associate Professor Anna King at the Wicking Centre said: "A key focus of our MND research is on neuroprotective strategies, particularly those that focus on the nerve cell processes or axons, which are responsible for transmitting signals. Our research has two key areas; understanding why these nerve cell processes degenerate and understanding how they degenerate. By answering these questions we are identifying new therapeutic targets for MND, which we hope will maintain the function of the motor neurons."

The list of MNDRIA grants and awards to the University of Tasmania in recent years is impressive, with grants awarded to researchers at all stages of their careers. Five of the fifteen hotly contested Bill Gole MND Postdoctoral Fellowships awarded since 2005 have gone to Tasmania to a continuing spectrum of promising early-career researchers.

MND Australia Research Conference Poster Prize — encouragement for students to participate in meetings and develop presentation skills: Rosemary Clark (runner up): 2015 Emily Handley (winner): 2018

PhD top-up grants — to attract students to choose motor neurone disease as the focus of their research: Rosemary Clark 2013-2015 Jayden Clark 2013-2015

Bill Gole MND Postdoctoral Fellowships —t o provide three years of salary for early-career researchers to establish a track record with research publications that will help them to achieve further funding for their research: Dr Roger Chung: 2005 (now Professor) Dr Anna King: 2008-2010 (now Associate Professor) Dr Catherine Blizzard: 2011-2013 Dr Jacqueline Leung 2014-2016 Dr Rosemary Clark: 2019-2021

Grants-in-aid / innovator grants — to enable researchers at all stages of their career to work on novel ideas and grow their data so they are in a position to apply for government funding for large project grants to further develop their work: Professor James Vickers: 2007 A/Prof Anna King: 2009, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 Dr Meng Inn Chuah: 2010 Dr Catherine Blizzard: 2014, 2016 Professor Tracey Dickson: 2016 Dr Jacqueline Leung: 2017 Dr Anthony Cook: 2019

Betty Laidlaw Prize — a reward for an outstanding midcareer researcher to work on an innovative and collaborative project: Dr Catherine Blizzard: 2017

Research Committee Members — giving something back in an honorary role—recognition of achievement and expertise in a specialised area of MND research: Professor James Vickers: 2006-2013 Professor Tracey Dickson: 2014-present

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