Researchers fight back against MND with funding boost

14 September 2019

IMB researchers hoping to progress their motor neurone disease (MND) research towards personalised treatments and an affordable, rapid blood test to diagnose the disorder have been boosted with support from FightMND.

Motor neurone disease (MND) is a rare but devastating disorder where people's bodies gradually shut down, while their minds remain sharp.

Professor Naomi Wray will receive nearly $2.2 million over three years to collaborate with MND clinics around Australia to collect biological samples and lifestyle information from people with MND, with the ultimate goal to have samples from every person in Australia with MND. 

"We are moving into an era of 'precision medicine' for many diseases, an approach which uses an individual's biological make-up to develop a personalised treatment plan, or to prevent the disease from occurring altogether," Professor Wray said.

"But to make evidence-based decisions on prevention and treatment, we first need data that integrates clinical, lifestyle and biological information–understanding the complex mix of genetic and non-genetic factors that contribute to MND may be a key for prevention."

"Our long-term goal is that a patient's biological samples taken at the first clinic visit could be used to predict their disease sub-type, which would provide a more accurate prognosis and contribute to the success of future clinical trials of new therapies."

Dr Fleur Garton will receive $250,000 over two years to develop an affordable, rapid blood test to diagnose MND.

"MND currently affects around 2000 Australians, many of whom would have spent more than a year searching for a diagnosis, which delays access to therapeutic interventions that can slow disease progression," Dr Garton said.

"We hope to develop a chip that recognises DNA circulating in the blood that has been secreted from cells affected by MND, which will be achieved by recruiting individuals with MND symptoms and looking for a common signature present in all patients with ALS, the most common form of MND. 

"If successful, this test could offer a minimally invasive, efficient and economical means for diagnosis, disease monitoring and assessment of response to therapeutic treatment–none of which currently exists for MND patients." 

FightMND is the largest independent funder of MND research in Australia, with a vision of a world without MND.