Professor Justin Yerbury

Order of Australia Award (AM).

IHMRI’s Professor Justin Yerbury has been awarded an Order of Australia Award (Member of the Order; AM) as part of the 2020 Australia Day honours.

Professor Yerbury has been recognised for his dedication to Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Research and advocacy.

Professor Yerbury says he is honoured to receive the reconigtion.

“The award to me is recognition of the hard work and sacrifice we have made in our quest to improve the lives of Australian’s living with MND. It is also a reflection of the amazing efforts of those that make it all possible including my wife Rachel, my family and my research team.”

Justin Yerbury was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in May 2016, 12 years after he completed his undergraduate science degree.

Justin’s career change from professional basketball to leading MND researcher was motivated by the deaths from MND of his mother, his grandmother and aunt – in one six week period. Within years, his sister Sarah was diagnosed with MND, and died not long afterwards at the age of 26. Most cases of MND occur randomly but 10 per cent of cases are inherited, as in Justin’s family.

In January 2018 Justin underwent a tracheostomy and laryngectomy.

The decision to undergo surgery extended Justin’s life expectancy and enabled him to return to his research into MND at IHMRI.

“This surgery may prolong my life by years, even decades, but the MND will continue to progress,” Justin said.

Justin now speaks with a computerised voice using a software program that converts words generated through eye-gaze technology. It is similar technology that was used by Stephen Hawking before his death. Justin and his family had visited Stephen Hawking in Cambridge in 2017. Before his death, Hawking recorded the introduction to the ABC Australian story documentary “The Enemy Within”.

Professor Sir Chrisopher Dobson also appeared in the ABC Australian Story documentary.

“The award is also something special because it was the last time my dear friend and mentor Professor Sir Christopher Dobson provided a reference for me before we lost him to pancreatic cancer in September 2019.”

Distinguished Professor David J. Adams, IHMRI’s CEO and Executive Director congratulated Professor Yerbury on his AM.

“Professor Yerbury has demonstrated enormous commitment to his career in research for MND whilst also living with the devastating disease, this is a well-deserved award,” Professor Adams said.

“My congratulations to Justin Yerbury and his team for this national recognition of his dedication to MND research.”

In an interview on ABC Illawarra regarding his Australia Day honour Professor Yerbury said;

“IHMRI and UOW continue to support my research. They have actively removed all barriers for me to keep working.”

He also thanked the Illawarra community for their ongoing support;

“The people of Wollongong and more recently people across the country have been great supporters of our work ranging from letters of encouragement to substantial donations.”

The official Award ceremony for the AM will happen in May.

Dr Justin Yerbury’s Career

2019 Professor, Professorial Fellow in Neurodegenerative Disease.

2019 Recipient, “Wollongong’s Citizen of the Year”, Australia Day Awards, Wollongong

2017 Awarded the Betty Laidlaw MND Research Prize.

2015-2019 Senior Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health.

2016 Promoted to Associate Professor in recognition of contributions to the fields of proteostasis and MND.

2012 Awarded ARC DECRA Fellowship.

2012 Awarded Lorne Conference on Protein Structure and Function Young Investigator Prize.

2011 awarded Vice Chancellors emerging researcher prize.

2008-2009 International ARC fellowship to University of Cambridge, UK.

2009-2012 awarded the Bill Gole MND postdocoral fellowship.

1999-2004 Undergraduate science degree completed with first class honours.

67 career publications to date.

Research interests

Protein misfolding, aggregation and neurodegenerative disease

Protein aggregation and neuro-inflammation

Propagation of protein misfolding

Protein homeostasis and Motor Neurone Disease

About Motor Neurone Disease

There are more than 2000 Australians living with the illness.

People with MND progressively lose the use of their arms and legs, their ability to speak, swallow and breathe.

Males are more likely than females to have MND but the cause as to why isn’t known.

Professor Justin Yerbury takes flight

New Motor Neurone Disease Appeal launched

Associate Professor Justin Yerbury on ABC’s Australian Story

Media contact

Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator

t: 4221 4702

m: 0417 044 867


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