During MND Awareness Month we are highlighting some of the research the MND Association funds in our ‘Project a Day’ series. Today, on global ALS/MND awareness day, we wanted to give you a look at the research into motor neurone disease taking place elsewhere.
Thousands of researchers across the globe are working towards a world free from MND. Rather than tell you each of their stories, we have gone to those that fund and facilitate this research, and asked them how their efforts bring us closer to figuring out the causes of MND, and finding treatments for this disease.
“I find huge inspiration in the knowledge that when I finish my work for the day, the MND researchers in Australia are just beginning theirs.” Prof Martin Turner, University of Oxford
Our colleagues down under
“MND Australia supports more than 40 projects, from gene discovery to clinical research and healthcare,” explained Dr Stephanie Williams, Research Manager at MND Australia.
“A combination of scholarships, fellowships, project grants and collaborative initiatives aim to strengthen our research effort to ensure Australia plays its part in the global quest to improve treatments and ultimately find a cure for MND.”
The MND Research Institute Australia (MNDRIA) is the research arm of MND Australia and funds a comprehensive programme of research, thanks to generous donations from their supporters. You can read more about some of their research here.
Different name, same goal
In North America, MND is known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS (the most common type of MND).
Current research areas funded by the ALS Association in the USA include biomarker development and big data initiatives to address the differences in the progression of ALS between people, and better inform clinical trial design.
Lucie Bruijn, Chief Scientist at the ALS Association told us about the other areas they are funding: “We have initiated several programs, many in partnership with other ALS organizations, to ensure that new treatment approaches reach the clinic.
“As part of our commitment to improving the quality of life for people currently living with the disease we launched the challenge for improved assistive technology approaches to communication.”
ALS Canada has a vision of making ALS a treatable disease by 2024.
“Canada has a strong legacy of ALS research and our scientists have provided a significant impact on the global effort towards making ALS a treatable disease” explained Dr David Taylor, Director of Research at ALS Canada.
An example of building on that legacy is their Arthur J. Hudson Translational Team Grant program, designed to fund teams of researchers from multiple institutions, working together towards making therapies for ALS a reality.
“As we look to develop a national ALS research network, the next goal will be to determine how the work of Canadians can complement and enhance the amazing work being done in other countries,” continued Dr Taylor.
Many minds are better than one
Project MinE is a great example of MND researchers and organisations working together to unravel the genetics behind MND. This project aims to analyse the DNA of a least 15,000 people with MND across the world, as well as the DNA from 7,500 healthy participants.
Bernard Muller, one of the founders of this project explained: “Project MinE is currently a collaboration of universities and ALS foundations from 16 countries worldwide. Such large-scale genetic research into the origins of ALS is unprecedented!”
“More than 7,000 DNA profiles have been sequenced already,” explained Prof Jan Veldink from UMC Utrecht, who is part of Project MinE. “So far, eight countries have contributed DNA samples for Project MinE and the next batch of samples will involve six more countries.”
Sharing knowledge and making connections
The key to defeating MND lies in fostering strong collaborations between leading researchers around the world, and sharing new understanding of the disease as rapidly as possible. This was the MND Association’s rationale behind the creation of the International Symposium on ALS/MND. The symposium is the largest medical and scientific conference specific to MND, discussing the latest advances in research and clinical management.
For this year’s symposium in Dublin, Ireland, we have received a third more abstracts (research summaries) than ever before. These are from emerging MND research nations including Brazil, China and India, as well as the established research communities highlighted above.
“The fantastic efforts of our colleagues across the globe are contributing enormously to our vision of a world free from MND. This is reflected in the quality of research presented our International Symposium every year.”
“The research into MND, together with the level of collaboration underway across the world, is mind blowing. Every year scientists from other fields of research are bringing their expertise to join us in our mission of finding a cure for this disease,” explained Dr Brian Dickie, our Director of Research Development.
Throughout June 2016 MND Awareness Month the MND Association are highlighting the rapid progression of the disease in its powerful Shortened Stories campaign, sharing the experiences of people currently living with MND, or who have lost loved ones to the disease, through art, poetry and film.