The Federal Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, announced today that NeuRA researchers have been awarded government grants totalling $18 million.
These National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) program grants will boost research into early onset dementia and motor neurone disease, as well as bipolar disorder.
One of the largest grants – $11 million – was awarded to a team led by NeuRA's Professor Glenda Halliday for investigations into frontotemporal and motor neurodegenerative syndromes, a common cause of dementia and motor neurone disease in people younger than 65.
Around 15,000 Australians are believed to be affected by the diseases, which are characterised by rapid disease progression. The grant will bring international leaders in clinical, pathological and biological research together to fast track innovations leading to more effective diagnosis, management and treatments.
"Degenerative disorders affecting the frontotemporal and motor regions of the brain mainly affect people in their prime. Those affected currently have few therapeutic options, and experience rapid progression of symptoms,” said Professor Halliday.
"With this five-year program funding, we will make considerable advances in understanding the causes of these diseases and the mechanisms by which they progress.
"Our goal is to develop tools that allow us to distinguish between patients with different underlying pathological changes in the brain, and to test treatments that we hope will lessen the burden of these diseases on the community," she said.
NeuRA's Prof Matthew Kiernan, one of the chief investigators on the grant, said: "We have assembled a research team with outstanding credentials in the clinical, pathological and biological aspects of FTD and associated motor disorders."
"In addition to improving standards of care for these patients, we aim to develop an understanding of disease progression and devise tools for use in future intervention studies. Overall, we believe this innovative and integrative research program will facilitate the development and delivery of therapeutics in these syndromes."
The second program grant – $7 million over five years – went to a team, including Prof Peter Schofield, working to improve knowledge and management of depression and bipolar disorder.
This team includes researchers from NeuRA, UNSW and the Black Dog Institute.
These grants were 2 of 159 grants worth $114 million announced today.