Professor Gilles Guilemin

Professor and Founding Member – MND and Inflammation Research

Background:

Gilles is a French-Australian neuroscientist. Gilles obtained a PhD in Neurovirology in 1997. In early 2005, Gilles established his research laboratory at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), where he was Head of the Neuroinflammation group until moving to Macquarie University in November 2012.

 

Current Position:

Gilles is currently leading a team of 12 researchers studying the involvement of tryptophan (an essential amino acid) in MND (such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), Multiple Sclerosis, brain tumours, Alzheimer’s disease and, which opens numerous very promising research opportunities. Gilles team is now mostly focusing on identifying and developing new therapeutic targets for all of these brain diseases.

 

Scientific excellence and recognition:

Gilles is internationally recognised as a leader in the fields of tryptophan, neuroinflammation and neurotoxicity research. Gilles has published more than 110 scientific manuscripts and is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal for Tryptophan Research and Co-Editor-in-Chief in the Neurological diseases section of International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology and Neurological Disease.

Gilles is regularly invited to present his work in national and international scientific meetings and conferences. In addition to Gilles own research he actively collaborates on a large number of projects with colleagues at UNSW, University of Sydney and overseas institutions.

 

Funding:

Since 2000, Gilles has attracted $4.5 million in research funds. Gilles has been the recipient of 30 grants (research, travel, equipment and fellowship), including the National Health & Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council and International funding agencies.

 

Leadership experience:

Gilles has recently been elected President of the International Neurotoxicity Society (June 2012) and President of the international society for tryptophan research (November 2012). Gilles is a Member of the Human Ethic Research committee at Macquarie University.

Gilles was the group head of the Neuroinflammation research team, responsible for the administration of the laboratory. This entails supervision and training of students and postdoctoral fellows, ensuring compliance with various State and Federal statutory requirements for laboratory and animal research as well as conception and review of research protocols.

 

Research objectives of the inflammation team:

Gilles research team are investigating how the immune system of MND patients becomes activated during the disease, and the detrimental impact that this has upon the nervous system through the abnormal production of toxic neurochemicals.

 

Benefits of this research to MND patients:

This research is aimed at identifying novel biomarkers that can be used to diagnose MND, or to measure the progression of the disease. These are important outcomes that will improve treatment and care for MND patients.

 

Professor Guillemin’s research team are:

Investigating how the immune system of MND patients become activated during the disease, and the detrimental impact that this has upon the nervous system through the abnormal production of toxic neurochemicals.

 

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Background:

Roger was born in Tasmania and completed his PhD at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) in 2003, and established a research group at UTAS in 2004. Roger moved to Macquarie University to start up the Deb Bailey Research Centre in August 2012.

 

Research history:

Prior to moving to Macquarie University, Roger led a research team of 11 scientists within the Menzies Research Institute, UTAS. The major goal of Roger’s research group was to investigate how a naturally occurring protein, metallothionein, is capable of protecting nerve cells from injury/death, and promoting their regeneration in MND and other brain diseases.

 

Scientific excellence and recognition:

Roger is internationally recognised for his ground-breaking research into the understanding of metallothionein biology. For more than 50 years metallothionein has been considered as a protein that only acts within cells. Roger’s research has revealed the secretion of metallothionein, and has identified a diverse range of neuroprotective actions of metallothionein upon nerve cells. These findings indicate that metallothionein represents a potential molecule that can be manipulated to improve outcomes in brain injury and neurodegenerative brain diseases.

In recognition of Roger’s research achievements, Roger has been awarded several community awards, including the Premier’s Tasmanian Young Achiever of the Year Award, the University of Tasmania Foundation Graduate Award and has been a nominee for Young Australian of the Year.

 

Funding:

Since 2003, Roger has received more than $5 million in competitive research funding. This includes a number of Nationally competitive research grants and fellowships from the National Health & Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council.

 

Leadership experience:

Roger has served on the Senior Management Team of the Menzies Research Institute (2006-2009), is the current Chair of the Institute’s Animal Users Committee (2008-current) and served as Deputy-Chair of an NHMRC Project Grant Review Panel (2009). Roger has served as the President of the Brain Injury Association of Tasmania since 2006, and also as President of Brain Injury Australia. Roger has undertaken a number of leadership and training programs at UTAS. Roger believes that all of these experiences have provided him with the appropriate expertise to lead the Deb Bailey Research Centre’s research.

 

Research objectives of the cell-to-cell communication team:

Roger’s research team utilises a range of biochemical and cellular techniques to understand how the normal communication between motor neurons and supporting cells that allows the nervous system to function correctly become abnormal in MND, and how this dysfunction in cell-to-cell communication drives the disease process.

 

Benefits of this research to MND patients:

Understanding how MND disrupts the relationship between motor neurons and supporting cells will help us to understand what causes this disease. This research will identify novel potential treatments that may be based upon correcting the abnormalities in supporting cells so that they support motor neurons correctly.

 

Professor Chung’s research team are:

Utilising a range of biochemical and cellular techniques to understand how the normal communication between motor neurons and supporting cells that allows the nervous system to function correctly becomes abnormal in MND, and how this dysfunction in cell-to-cell communication drives the disease process.

 

Professor Roger Chung

Professor and Founding Member – Cellular Communication and MND

Associate Professor Ian Blair

Leader of Genetic Causes

Background:

Ian is internationally recognised for his role in determining the molecular and cellular basis of a variety of neurodegenerative disorders including motor neuron disease.

 

Research history:

Ian leads a team that identifies the mutations in several genes that account for a large proportion of inherited forms of MND. His laboratory utilises genetic studies to understand inherited forms of MND, and also a range of cellular techniques to understand how these mutated genes cause MND.

 

Scientific excellence and recognition:

Ian conceives, instigates and leads studies to unravel the molecular genetic and cellular basis of ALS/MND. In the past 6 years, his group has played a key role in multiple ALS gene discoveries worldwide. These discoveries (including TDP-43 and FUS) were among the most critical breakthroughs in ALS/MND research.

Ian has produced publications in several high-impact journals including two papers in Science, one as first author. His work has a significant impact on the field, as evidenced by over 1,700 citations, including over 800 citations of his first / senior author papers. Ian has a US patent, and multiple diagnostics assays implemented in hospital settings.

 

Funding:

Since 2008, Ian has attracted over $3.5 million in competitive research funding, including five NHMRC project grants (two as CIA), an NHMRC career development award (CDA level 2), and multiple grants from Australian and US NPOs. He is CI on three current NHMRC project grants (one as CIA) to study ALS/MND.

 

Leadership experience:

Ian has supervised and mentored 11 postgraduate students, of whom 8 have completed their degrees. The four PhD students under his supervision have co-authored publications in top journals. Six completed Honours students under his supervision were awarded First-class degrees, with one receiving the University Medal.

Ian is a member of the Research Committee of MND Australia and the MND Research Institute of Australia. He reviews grant applications for NHMRC and international funding bodies including UK-MND Association and the Wellcome Trust. Ian is an opinion leader in this field and provides annual newsletters with research updates to families with ALS.

 

Research objectives of the MND genetics team:

Ian’s team have identified the mutations in several genes that account for some of the inherited forms of MND. His laboratory utilises genetic studies to understand inherited forms of MND, and also a range of cellular techniques to understand how these mutated genes cause MND.

 

Benefits of this research to MND patients:

This research will lead to the development of diagnostics for inherited forms of MND. By identifying genes that cause MND, this allows MND researchers worldwide to undertake studies to determine how these genes cause MND.

 

Associate Professor Blair’s research team are:

Identifying the mutations in several genes that account for a large proportion of inherited forms of MND. Their research utilises genetic studies to understand inherited forms of MND, and also a range of cellular techniques to understand how these mutated genes cause MND.

 

Background:

Julie’s research has focussed exclusively on ALS/MND since 2003. She previously headed the ALS/MND group at the Florey Neuroscience Institute, Melbourne (2005-2009). In 2009 she was recruited as a Laboratory Head and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry, La Trobe University.

 

Research history:

Julie is currently leading a team of 10 researchers studying the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in ALS / MND.

 

Scientific excellence and recognition:

Julie is internationally recognised as a leader in the molecular mechanisms underlying cellular stress responses in ALS/MND. Her 2006 publication was the first describing induction of the full unfolded protein response in ALS and has been a milestone in the field, receiving 110 citations since October 2006.

Her standing in the field is also evident by invitations present at the most important international meeting in the ALS / MND field, the International Symposium on ALS/MND. She was recently invited to chair the “Cell stress” session at the forthcoming International Symposium on ALS/MND in Chicago in December 2012.

Julie is also regularly recruited to review grants for national and international funding bodies, including NHMRC project and program grants and the Medical Research Council (UK), as well as important ALS/MND funding bodies, such as the MND Association (UK).

 

Funding:

Since 2005, she has attracted $2.3 million in research funds and has been the recipient of 22 grants (research, travel, equipment and fellowship) including the National Health & Medical Research Council and International funding agencies.

 

Leadership experience:

Julie has undertaken several key leadership roles at La Trobe University such as Postgraduate Co-ordinator, and Course Co-ordinator for the Biomedical Science degree.

Julie was the group head in ALS/MND research team at La Trobe University, responsible for the leadership and administration of the laboratory. This entails supervision and training of students and postdoctoral fellows, ensuring compliance with various State and Federal statutory requirements for laboratory and animal research as well as conception and review of research protocols.

 

Research objectives of the protein abnormalities team:

Julie’s team focus upon understanding how mutations in MND-linked proteins kill motor neurons by impeding the normal functions of these cells. Mutations in known MND- linked proteins causes them to inappropriately “stick together” biochemically (aggregate), and this causes them to impair energy production and recycling of proteins within motor neurons, ultimately causing them to die.

 

Benefits of this research to MND patients:

This research will identify biochemical reasons that cause MND, and identify potential targets for therapeutic drug development.

 

Associate Professor Atkin’s research team are:

Focusing upon understanding how mutations in MND-linked proteins kill motor neurons by impeding the normal functions of these cells.

 

Associate Professor Julie Atkin

Leader of Protein Abnormalities

DR NICHOLAS COLE

Leader of Zebrafish Models for MND

Background:

Nicholas is a British-Australian research scientist. He completed his PhD in 1998 at The University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Postdoctoral research positions followed at The University of Dundee, and in Australia at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. Nicholas became a group leader in 2008 in The Faculty of Medicine at The University of Sydney until moving to Macquarie University in 2012.

 

Research history:

Nicholas leads a laboratory which provides an outstanding environment for his research team generating vertebrate models of MND (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and includes a state of the art zebrafish facility. Nicholas’ team is focused upon understanding and curing MND.

 

Scientific excellence and recognition:

The quality of Nicholas’s research output is demonstrated by the numerous journal publications. These include PLoS Biology, PNAS, Current Biology, Developmental Cell and Development. Most recently Nicholas established the zebrafish as a model of motor neuron disease/ALS. The validity of his ideas were recognised by his award of a NHMRC project grant as CIA. Nicholas presented his zebrafish ALS data at the International MND meeting 2011.

Nicholas’s expertise with the zebrafish model organism has facilitated on-going collaborations both in Australia and Internationally. Australian collaborations include The ANZAC Research Institute, Concord Hospital, The Brain and Mind Institute, The Garvan Institute, and The University of Queensland.

 

Funding:

Since 2008, Nicholas has been awarded more than $1.5 million in research funding including the National Health and Medical Research Council and various philanthropic organizations. CI Cole is currently the Chief Investigator A of a NHMRC project grant APP1034816: ‘Investigating the pathogenesis of motor neuron disease using zebrafish models’.

Nicholas was the leader of the research laboratory, which involved mentoring, supervision and training of staff and students, ensuring compliance with State and Federal requirements for laboratory and animal research. This is in addition to the conception and review of research proposals and manuscripts.

 

Research objectives of the zebrafish models team:

Nicholas’s team are developing zebrafish models of MND, and using these unique animals to understand how motor neurons die in MND. In particular, zebrafish are translucent, allowing us to watch motor neurons degenerate in a living fish, providing a unique opportunity to visualise and understand MND.

 

Benefits of this research to MND patients:

This research will provide a unique opportunity to understand MND. These zebrafish will also become important tools for testing potential therapeutic drugs.

 

Dr Cole’s research team are:

Developing zebrafish models of MND, and using these unique animals to understand how motor neurons die in MND.

 

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