Australian School Of Advanced Medicine Launches Research Centre

4 Feb 2014

A team of researchers has gathered at the Australian School of Advanced Medicine at Macquarie University with a mission to solve the mysteries of motor neurone disease. They have launched the new Deb Bailey Motor Neurone Research Centre, the first unit in Australia dedicated to the disease. It will draw on the state-of-the-art facilities in both the school and the adjacent Macquarie University Hospital.

The centre has been several years in the making and the realisation of a promise to Deb Bailey, a prominent Sydney journalist who died in 2001, aged 48.

Ms Bailey’s friend, Robyn Paine had promised to ensure that more research was being done to discover the causes of the debilitating disease and to improve the management and treatment of patients afflicted by it.

There is no cure for motor neurone disease, which cripples the ability to move, speak and swallow.

Only 0.4 per cent of the population contracts the disease and while there are only 600 patients at any one time, one of them dies every day.

Mrs Paine and other friends, together with Ms Bailey’s husband and then editor in chief of The Australian David Armstrong and her daughters Claire and Jane, launched the Deb Bailey Foundation, a decade ago.

“Deb was determined to fight the disease and wanted to support other sufferers of MND by targeting research that would ultimately find a cure,” Mrs Paine said.

“Deb believed that If a task was important, you ignored its difficulties and devoted all your energy to its accomplishment, which is what we are now dedicated to achieving with this research centre.”

She said that while the unit would carry Deb Bailey’s name, it was dedicated to the memory of all Australians touched by the disease. She said that the foundation was grateful for the substantial support provided by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and News Limited. About 18 months ago, Ms Paine met Professor Gilles Guillemin, an eminent researcher already working on motor neurone disease.

From that meeting, grew the concept of a dedicated research centre within the Australian School of Advanced Medicine.

Five senior researchers, Prof Guillemin, Professor Roger Chung, Associate Professor Ian Blair, Associate Professor Julie Atkin and Dr Nicholas Cole, have gather at the school to provide direction and leadership to the research team.

They will work closely with two neurologists, Professors Dominic Rowe and Garth Nicholson, who are both leading clinicians in the treatment of the disease.

Collectively, the researcher will use a research pipeline that starts at the motor neurone disease clinic, with patient samples being used for genetic and biochemical studies to identify causes, which are then tested in cell biology and zebrafish models of the disease, with the goal of identifying therapeutics that can then return to the clinic for evaluation.

Thursday night’s launch of the new centre was led by Professor Simon Foote, dean of the Australian School of Advanced Medicine.

“Finding a cure will require a massive effort from teams of experts in different fields,” Prof Foote said. “The support of the Deb Bailey Foundation, in concert with the significant contribution of the University, will give researchers an enormous kickstart,” he said.

In giving the welcome to country, indigenous elder Tobin, said that the new centre was a perfect example of how different element of the community were able to come together for the benefit of the community as a whole.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Bruce Dowton and NSW Governor Professor Marie Bashir joined Mrs Paine in unveiling a plaque to commemorate the centre’s opening.

Colin Kerr, The Telegraph.com.au

Click here to read about the statistics of MND in Australia and Internationally.

Click here to read about the effects of MND.

Click here to read about who MND effects.

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