Associate Professor Ian Blair.
Associate Professor Ian Blair.

Major grant boost to tackle dementia

Announced last Friday by the Minister for Health Sussan Ley, a Macquarie research team led by Associate Professor Ian Blair has received a $6.37 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for dementia research.

At Macquarie, the grant will fund research into the biological origins of familial and sporadic frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neurone disease (MND). These diseases overlap and are thought to share common biological origins.

“Our project will seek to identify the origins of FTD, which is the second most common form of presenile dementia, and how it is linked pathologically and genetically to MND, a fatal neurodegenerative disease affecting motor neurones,” said Associate Professor Blair.

Associate Professor Blair says recent breakthrough discoveries have identified common genetic causes for FTD and MND.

“We aim to identify new genetic mutations responsible for inherited (familial) FTD/MND,” he said. “Importantly, we will also identify genetic variation that predisposes to sporadic FTD/MND – as part of Project MinE, the largest global initiative ever established to solve the puzzle of sporadic MND.”

The goal of Project MinE is to sequence the whole genomes of 15,000 MND patients and will be the first study of its type in the world to provide the best opportunity for discovery of causative gene variation in sporadic MND/FTD.

The research will be based at Macquarie and is a collaboration between the University of Wollongong, Neuroscience Research Australia and Macquarie University Hospital.

“Macquarie plays a central role in MND research, using the expertise of five neurobiology teams together to build a new collaborative research program focusing upon MND and related neurodegenerative diseases,” he said.

“While there is currently no cure for dementia, Australia is a world leader in the disease’s research and progress towards effective treatments,” Ms Ley said.

The government’s $200 million boost to dementia research will contribute to the World Dementia Council’s target of achieving a five-year delay in the onset of dementia by 2025.