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MS research at Menzies boosted by significant new grant funding

Research | Newsroom

Four researchers from the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research are amongst the recipients of 22 grants awarded by MS Australia in its latest funding round for multiple sclerosis (MS) research, providing a major boost in the fight against this increasing and accelerating disease.

Menzies’ researchers Dr Nicholas Blackburn, Ms Alice Saul, Dr Bennet McComish and Professor Bruce Taylor all received grants, bringing a combined total of $818,966 to our MS Research Flagship for much needed MS research.

Professor Tracey Dickson, Director of Menzies Institute for Medical Research says this funding is an important and valued stimulus for our researchers.

“Our MS Research Flagship’s vision is to reduce the impact of MS for individuals and the community, and these research grants from MS Australia make a significant contribution towards this,” Professor Dickson said.

MS is the most commonly acquired chronic neurological disease affecting young adults and affects three times more women than men. As yet, there is no cure.

Alarmingly, a recent report discovered that MS is rising at an accelerating rate in Australia, with the number of people diagnosed from 2017 to 2021 increasing sharply by 30% (25,600 to 33,335).

Associate Professor Desmond Graham, MS Australia President, Chair of the Menzies MS Research Flagship’s Consumer and Community Reference Committee and a member of the Flagship’s Steering Committee, congratulated the successful research teams.

"The projects and researchers funded are of the highest quality and have the most significant potential to make a difference for people living with MS." Associate Professor Graham said.

About the research

  • Dr Nicholas Blackburn’s research will identify potential MS-associated genes by studying families where multiple members have MS. They will look for changes in genes that may lead to the disease by comparing the genes of family members with MS to those without. After finding these genetic changes, Dr Blackburn will identify how they contribute to MS development.
  • Dr Bennet McComish’s research will unravel how MS prevalence has evolved. MS is a genetic disease with a complex risk profile. In addition, it is more common in populations of European ancestry, and more common further from the equator within those populations. It is likely that this pattern has been shaped by natural selection. Dr McComish’s project is designed to identify specific combinations of genetic variants that cause MS and have undergone natural selection and help to understand the mechanisms of disease.
  • Ms Alice Saul’s research will focus on the role of pain in MS. While pain is prevalent in MS there is still uncertainty about the nature of MS-related pain, how pain fluctuates over time in the short and long-term, and how it relates to other symptoms of MS. Ms Saul's project may improve our understanding of the different types of MS related pain. The project aims to develop advice on pain management and to design treatment intervention studies for specific types of pain.
  • Professor Bruce Taylor’s research will look at the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and if it works well for people living with MS. This will include evaluating the impact of becoming an NDIS participant on quality of life and workforce participation and identifying barriers and facilitators to access.