After many months of planning and several COVID-induced delays the inaugural Australian and New Zealand MND Research Symposium took place from the 28-30th April in Brisbane.
The meeting was jointly hosted by MND Research Australia and FightMND and the Organising Committee was chaired by Derik Steyn with Fleur Garton chairing the Local Organising Committee.
We were fortunate enough to obtain generous sponsorship from Clene Nanomedicine, MND Queensland, MNDandME and several UQ Institutes and Schools. We were able to provide free registration for those with lived experience and all members of the community were welcome to attend all the sessions.
In fact, our open invitation for anyone with lived experience to attend for no cost was recognised by the awarding of a Morris ALS/MND Principles accolades certificate. The Morris ALS Principles were created with the intent of breaking down silos, avoiding expensive duplication, creating a human-centric ALS landscape and encouraging valuable collaboration between ALS stakeholders.
We had ~220 in person registrants and another ~40 online attendees. This is by far the biggest ever national MND research meeting in Australia and likely testifies to how keen our research community was to re-connect after 2+ years of COVID.
The Symposium opened with a very moving “yarn” from Mel Syron, telling us about her father’s MND journey from an indigenous perspective. We then had 2 days of scientific sessions focussed on causes of MND, the role of TDP43, treatment development and biomarkers, and clinical research and improving care.
Our up and coming early career researchers were very prominent demonstrating the Australian and New Zealand research community is in good hands. A stand-out was hearing about collaborative research programs such as the MND Collective, the MiNDAUS Partnership, and the MNDSA Clinical Pathway and Referral Network. It was also gratifying to have a strong NZ MND Research contingent present at the meeting and promising links have been forged to work more closely together in the future.
On day 3 we hosted the MND Connect session which brings together our MND researchers with the wider MND community. The scene was brilliantly set by ex-ABC journalist Sean Dorney telling us his hopes for research with the resounding message of “Keep on Going”. We heard about patient-centric MND clinical apps, genetic counselling, MND biology, environmental vs genetic causes of MND, the current clinical trial landscape and regional and palliative care.