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Four new incubator grants awarded for 2015

2nd October, 2015

MS Research Australia incubator grants are awarded to specifically provide seed funding for the early stages of new research efforts, with the aim of generating the preliminary data needed to support future grant applications. In the first of two rounds to be held in 2015, four new incubators have been awarded totalling $95,350 in funding.

Incubator grants were introduced to provide a mechanism for funding new ideas or ideas for which there was no preliminary evidence. It is the forum for blue sky ideas and the opportunity for researchers to follow-up unusual findings where full project applications are not yet warranted.

Dr Peter Crouch working with Mr James Hilton at the University of Melbourne will determine whether a functional copper deficiency exists in a laboratory model of MS and also in the brains of people with MS. This incubator grant, among others, was made possible by a generous grant from The Silberscher Family Foundation. While the role of copper in MS has been looked at before, Dr Crouch will be using sensitive measurement techniques optimised as part of his other research interests to assess the specific activity of multiple copper dependent enzymes for the first time in MS.

Biomarkers, such as molecules that could be measured using a simple blood test, would be valuable to track clinical outcomes and response to therapies in MS as well as to measure the effect of new treatments in clinical trials. Associate Professor Michael Buckland from the Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney, will be researching the potential for exosomes in the blood as a biomarkers for MS.  Exosomes are normally present in the blood and contain molecules from their cells of origin. Associate Professor Buckland will profile a specific type of molecule in exosomes known as small non-coding RNAs in people with MS to see if they could be useful as biomarkers.

Associate Professor Judith Greer, from the University of Queensland, is aiming to make a mouse with the capacity to be a much better laboratory model of the human disease than the models that are currently available. Current laboratory models of MS have a number of limitations in terms of mimicking the human immune response in MS. Associate Professor Greer is attempting to overcome these issues by building the model using cells from people with MS.

Interferon-beta was the first licenced therapy for MS and is still a common treatment choice worldwide. However, some people can experience serious side effects on this therapy. Dr Markus Hofer from the University of Sydney will be attempting to improve interferon beta treatments by investigating a specific gene that is activated as part of the molecular cascade in response to interferon therapy.

‘We are very pleased to announce the new round of incubator grants for these novel ideas in MS research,’ said Associate Professor Mark Slee, Chair Incubator Grants, MS Research Australia Research Management Council, ‘I would like to congratulate the researchers involved and look forward to hearing about their results.’

For further information about the current incubator grants and all the research currently funded by MS Research Australia visit

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