The only way is up: Simon Handley joins Firies Climb for MND


Executive Dean of Human Sciences Professor Simon Handley is stepping up to support MND research at Macquarie.

For 600 firefighters and hundreds of others who have signed up to climb the 1504 stairs of the Sydney Tower Eye wearing 20 kilograms of firefighting gear, there will be one thing spurring them onward and upward – the hope for a cure for motor neurone disease (MND).

For one participant in the Firies Climb for MND, Executive Dean of Human Sciences Professor Simon Handley, there was an added incentive: fulfilling his childhood dream of wearing a full firefighter’s uniform.

“There’s 20 kilograms of extra weight in the uniform, the boots, the air canister and the helmet,” says Simon. “I’ve tried it all on and it’s very heavy, very hot and not very comfortable, but it does give you a greater respect for firefighters and what they do on a daily basis.”

Simon points out that this discomfort pales in comparison to the suffering experienced by many sufferers of MND. The neurological disease – which can strike healthy people indiscriminately at any time – affects the neurones that control the muscles that enable us to move, speak, breathe and swallow. With no known cure, half of MND patients die within 18 months of diagnosis.

With the Firies Climb generating funds for Macquarie’s ground-breaking Centre for Motor Neuron Disease Research and MND clinical trials program, Simon says he didn’t take much convincing when it came to participating.

“MND is such a good cause and an area of research in which Macquarie excels,” he says. “I like a good physical/athletic challenge, so the opportunity to combine the physical challenge and raising funds for MND was irresistible.”

Another well-known Macquarie face that will be seen on the 1504 Sydney Tower Eye stairs on October 20 is Professor Gilles Guillemin, who is one of the research leaders in the University’s MND research centre. Professor Guillemin – who was nominated for a Eureka award in 2017 for his work in multiple sclerosis – will be teaming up with firefighters from Coffs Harbour 257 for the climb. Professor Guillemin will be doing the climb in memory of Adam Regal, a patient of the Macquarie MND clinic who sadly passed away at the end of August.

Ready: Professor Gilles Guillemin (in yellow helmet) with Senior and Executive Officers from Fire and Rescue NSW.

Staff who would like to support Simon or Gilles can donate on their individual pages below, or you can donate to the general event to directly support our researchers as they move closer to a cure for MND:
Support Simon
Support Gilles

Staff and students can also support MND awareness and research by taking on their own personal challenge. The #1504forMND campaign encourages people to donate $15.04 to MND research or take a selfie while climbing 1504 stairs, doing a 15.04 kilometre run or a 1.504 kilometre swim, and then sharing it on social media with the following caption:

I just did #1504forMND!
On Saturday 20 October, the Firies Climb for MND will see firefighters climb the 1504 stairs of the Sydney Tower Eye in full firefighting gear to raise vital research funds for a cure. Motor neurone disease kills two Aussies a day, with 50 per cent of patients dying in the first 18 months.

I challenge [friends’ names] to do #1504forMND with me: that’s 1504 stairs, a 15.04km run, or a 1.504 km swim. If you’d rather not climb the stairs, you can donate $15.04 to Firies Climb for MND at





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