Motor Neurone Disease Research Australia (MNDRA) is the research arm of MND Australia.
MNDRA was established in 1984 as a national organisation promoting medical and scientific research into MND. The organisation has been driven forward by the vision to understand the causes, find effective treatments and discover cures for MND.
The Board members of MNDRA are the same as the Board of MND Australia. The MND Australia Research Committee members review grant applications and determine the distribution of funds within the set policies, and according to the criteria for scientific assessment. MNDRA Research Committee members adhere to the MNDRA Conflicts of Interest Policy.
The aims of Motor Neurone Disease Research Australia are:
Motor Neurone Disease Research Australia was previously known as the Motor Neurone Disease Research Institute of Australia, the A.L.S. Research Institute and the A.L.S.–Motor Neurone Disease Research Institute Incorporated.
Professor David Burke has been recognised for eminent service to neurophysiology, to innovative treatments for spinal cord and brain trauma injuries, and to professional medical organisations. Professor Burke was the first medical Chairman of MNDRA (1995-1998), following inaugural Chairman Dr Dawn Thew, who founded the Institute in 1986. In October 2019, Professor Burke returned to the role of Chairman of the research committee.
Associate Professor Rebekah Ahmed is a NHMRC Early Career Fellow at the Brain and Mind Centre and staff specialist Neurologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where she directs the multidisciplinary Memory and Cognition Clinic. She is a clinician scientist with her research focusing on metabolic biomarkers in neurodegeneration. Rebekah joined the MNDRA Research Committee in 2020.
Professor Anthony Akkari is a pharmaco-geneticist and neuromuscular disease geneticist with over 30 years research experience, including 18 years of industry expertise in molecular genetics, pharmaco-genetics and personalised medicine. He was recruited internationally to build and lead the Motor Neuron Disease Genetics and Therapeutics team at the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science and Murdoch University. Professor Akkari has served on the board of the Motor Neurone Disease Association of Western Australia for over 3 years and was recently invited to be the WA State Representative to the MND Research Collective.
Professor Blair is Director of the Macquarie University Centre for MND Research, a clinical and research program with over 80 research personnel. He conceives, instigates and leads studies to unravel the molecular genetic and cellular basis of MND and frontotemporal dementia. His genetics and genomics program has been a key player in many MND gene discoveries over the last 15 years. These discoveries have translated to diagnostic tests, informed clinical practice and genetic counselling. These genes have also enabled the development of cell and animal models that are the basis of basic science-research as well as pre-clinical trials and therapeutic development.
Associate Professor Cathy Blizzard is a discovery MND researcher at the Tasmanian School of Medicine of the University of Tasmania. Her research interests are focussed upon understanding the sequalae of neurodegenerative events that occur in neurons of the corticomotor system in MND and developing novel therapeutic strategies to prevent this neurodegeneration.
Dr Thanuja Dharmadasa is a Neurologist & Clinical Neurophysiologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and an NHMRC Early Career Fellow. She completed her clinical PhD in MND through the University of Sydney and postdoctoral clinical research fellowship at the University of Oxford (UK). Her clinical research interests focus on optimising clinical care strategies and utilising advanced neurophysiological and neuroimaging techniques to understand disease mechanisms in MND.
Professor Michelle Farrar has a focus in Paediatric Neurology at UNSW Sydney and is a specialist child neurologist at Sydney Children’s Hospital, leading the neuromuscular clinical and research programs. Michelle’s team is focused on developing and translating innovative ways of providing the best possible care from the time of diagnosis, through treatment and beyond to people with neuromuscular, neurodevelopmental or rare neurogenetic diseases. The research program also integrates interdisciplinary genomics research, together with community and consumer involvement. Michelle joined the MNDRA Research Committee in 2020.
Associate Professor Robert Henderson is a clinical neurologist and academic with research focused on neurodegenerative diseases, particularly motor neuron disease/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (MND/ALS). He has been involved in neurology training, supervision, and mentorship. With Professor Pam McCombe he established and coordinates the MND Clinic at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital which conducts investigator-driven research into biomarkers of disease progression. He believes in collaborative research with links to many co-collaborators within UQ, QUT, nationally and internationally.
Dr Anne Hogden works at the University of New South Wales as a Senior Lecturer with the School of Population Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health. Her overarching research has the aim of understanding how health-care managers can best promote safe and high-quality care. Anne’s focus is to ensure that wherever possible, MND patients are supported to be cared for on their terms and that quality of life is promoted at every opportunity. Anne joined the MNDRA Research Committee in 2020.
Professor Marina Kennerson directs the Translational Gene Discovery and Functional Genomics Program for Rare Neurogenetic Diseases at the Northcott Neuroscience Laboratory, ANZAC Research Institute. Her research focuses on identifying the genetic causes and mechanisms underlying motor neuron death for a spectrum of motor neuron disorders including Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, MND and motor neuropathies. Her research program uses multi-omics technologies with a focus on structural variation DNA re-arrangements for gene discovery as well as stem cell derived patient motor neurons and the round worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) for developing in vitro and in vivo pre-clinical models for newly identified disease genes. Marina joined the MNDRA Research Committee in 2021.
Professor Anna King is a neuroscientist, NHMRC boosting dementia research leadership fellow and Associate Director (research) at the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre at the University of Tasmania where she leads a team of researchers, technical staff and students. Prof King received training in molecular biology and biochemistry at Durham University (UK) and the Heart Research Institute (Australia), before completing her PhD in neuropathology of ALS at the University of Tasmania in 2008. Her research interests span cell to human studies and lie in understanding, detecting and preventing the adverse neuronal changes that result in the clinical symptoms of neurodegenerative disease with a focus on vulnerable structures such as the axon and synapse. Professor King joined the MNDRA Research Committee in 2021.
Associate Professor Allan McRae heads the Systems Genomics group at the University of Queensland. The group combines genetic analysis of complex traits and disease in large cohorts with genomics data to develop insights into the underlying mechanisms of human variation. Allan is an ARC Future Fellow and an NHMRC career development fellow at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience. Allan joined the MNDRA Research Committee in 2020.
Associate Professor Shyuan Ngo heads a research group investigating neurometabolism in MND at the University of Queensland, the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital (RBWH) and the Wesley Hospital. Associate Professor Ngo oversees a research program that centres on the MND clinics at the RBWH and Wesley. Her patient-directed research is complemented by extensive discovery research using a range of transgenic models, human myosatellite cells, and human induced pluripotent stem cell derived neurons. Associate Professor Ngo’s broader research program aims to identify pathogenic mechanisms in MND with the goal to develop or re-purpose therapeutic compounds for personalised medicine for MND.
Associate Professor Mary-Louise Rogers’ research interest is in treatment strategies and biomarker discovery for MND. Mary-Louise leads the translational Ian Davis Flinders University Biomarker facility and the research undertaken in the Neurotrophic Laboratory. Mary-Louise is on the board of MND South Australia and joined the MNDRA Research Committee in 2020.
Professor Bradley Turner heads a research team focused on understanding the molecular basis of MND and developing novel treatment approaches at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the University of Melbourne. His group employs patient stem cell-derived and transgenic animals for disease modelling and drug discovery with a strong focus on preclinical trials. Professor Turner's research interests also extend to childhood spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and Kennedy's disease (KD), which are related to MND.
Professor of Neurology, University of Sydney and Senior Staff specialist in Neurology at Westmead Hospital. Professor Vucic's research interest is in determining the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the development of MND, in particular determining the site of disease onset. In order to address this issue he was part of a team that developed a novel neurophysiological technique for determining cortical function. In addition to furthering the understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms in MND, Professor Vucic's research has potentially resulted in the development of a novel test which can aid in the diagnosis of MND.
Gethin Thomas has been the Executive Director, Research at MND Australia since 2019. He oversees the research grant program and manages national and international partnerships. A key aspect of this role if providing a conduit between research programs and the wider MND community through MND Australia and the affiliated State Associations. Gethin is also Chair of the Scientific Advisory Council of the International Alliance of ALS MND Associations which is a centralized resource to review and provide global perspective on scientific and biomedical announcements, information and research opportunities relating to ALS/MND.