John Laidlaw, Associate Professor Lezanne Ooi, Professor Justin Yerbury, Janet Nash from MND Australia, Melissa Duggan and Senior Research Assistant Natalie Farrawell

Why giving matters

A fundraising appeal by the University of Wollongong (UOW) to support research into motor neurone disease research at IHMRI has almost reached its target of $30,000.

UOW’s Advancement team launched the appeal last year to support Professor Justin Yerbury and MND research.

The IHMRI molecular biologist thanked donors at a research update seminar on 12 February 2019.

“There has been an amazing response to the MND research appeal and the funding raised will allow us to test our ideas on a direction for a therapeutic strategy,” Professor Yerbury said.

More than fifty people attended the event, including the former head of the iconic Hard Yakka clothing brand, John Laidlaw.

John Laidlaw’s wife Betty has lived with MND for the past three decades.

“My wife has primary lateral sclerosis, a very rare form of motor neurone disease that progresses slowly,” Mr Laidlaw said.

The family has donated more than $2 million dollars into MND research.

Professor Yerbury was diagnosed with the disease in 2016.

In 2017, he was the recipient of the Betty Laidlaw MND Research Prize worth $250,000.

The funding along with other grants and gifts has helped Professor Yerbury and his team to continue the search for a treatment or a cure for MND.

“What drives me is not the fact that I have been diagnosed, but the fact that every day in Australia two more people are diagnosed and another two people die from MND. It needs to stop,” he said.

MND causes progressive degeneration of motor neurones in the brain and spinal cord. People with the disease progressively lose the use of their arms and legs, their ability to speak, swallow and breathe.

Professor Yerbury and his team investigate the proteins that are needed at the very end of motor neurons where the electrical signal is interrupted and prevents muscle movement.

“The idea is to super charge our bodies own system to recycle proteins to reduce the accumulation of faulty proteins in MND,” said Professor Yerbury.

Approximately 2,000 Australians are living with MND.

In a minority of cases, around 10 per cent, there is a genetic link to the disease with members of the same family contracting it.

For most people diagnosed with MND, however, the disease is sporadic.

MND Public Lecture hosted by Professor Justin Yerbury

Photos by Trudy Simpkin

Related stories

Justin Yerbury launches MND Research Appeal

IHMRI scientist wins motor neurone disease research prize

Media coverage

Illawarra Mercury

12 February 2019: Philanthropist John Laidlaw supports homegrown research into motor neurone disease

Nine News Illawarra

Media contact

Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator

t: 4221 4702

m: 0417 044 867


Top photo: John Laidlaw, Associate Professor Lezanne Ooi, Professor Justin Yerbury, Janet Nash from MND Australia, Melissa Duggan and Senior Research Assistant Natalie Farrawell. Photo by Trudy Simpkin

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