Postgraduate Research Scholarship, commencing 2001, was wholly funded by the
National Health and Medical Research Council, which only funds the highest
calibre research projects and in 2004 Dr Emery was awarded the Young
Investigators Prize at the Progress in MS Research Meeting in Melbourne.
University in the US offered Dr Emery a Postdoctoral position in the Department
of Neurobiology commencing 2005, a position supported by a NHMRC CJ Martin
“From a work perspective, a definite highlight of my time in the US was
the opportunity to work with Professor Ben Barres at Stanford University” says
Dr Emery. “Ben Barres is an incredibly
tireless and vibrant scientist, and I think much of the current resurgence of
research on glia (the “supporting” cells in the brain, including the
myelin-forming oligodendrocytes) can be attributed to his passion for these cells
over the past two decades.”
“During my time in his lab Ben really gave
me the free range and encouragement to follow up on my research interests, and
the result was the discovery of a gene that is instrumental in coordinating the
myelination process. Through Ben’s lab I was also involved in the Myelin Repair
Foundation, a US foundation funding and encouraging collaborations between
laboratories with an interest in myelin repair. Through this I was introduced
to a lot of other great teams and investigators who I had previously only known
Australian MS research is very fortunate
that Dr Emery, who says he thinks he was always drawn to neurobiology research
with relevance to human conditions, has returned home.
“We are lucky to
have a person of the calibre of Ben Emery devoting his considerable intellect
to multiple sclerosis related research. I have every confidence that his work
will ultimately be a key factor in improving the lives of people with multiple
sclerosis,” says Professor Trevor Kilpatrick.
Foundation is funding Dr Emery’s current research, “Understanding the events
that control central nervous system myelination” at Howard Florey Institute
Dr Emery says that
one of the contributing factors to disease progression in MS is the fact that
remyelination (myelin repair) becomes less efficient as the disease progresses.
“My research is
based on trying to understand the signals that normally drive the myelination
process,” says Dr Emery. “This includes both the signals that nerve cells
provide to oligodendrocytes (the cells that produce myelin), and the signaling
pathways within the oligodendrocytes that allow them to coordinate the cellular
changes needed to generate myelin.”
“Generally my research starts off identifying signals that modulate
myelination during development in the mouse, and then moves into testing these
signals in mouse models of myelin repair. I hope that by fully understanding the
myelination process we will be able to develop treatments designed to recreate
an environment that promotes remyelination in MS. These treatments could then
complement the current therapies that target the immune system.”
Life for Ben
Emery, husband and father of a daughter almost two, away from the lab is
anything but dull. He says he functions
much better with some “decompression” time!
This has ranged from rock climbing, sea kayaking and spending five days
climbing El Capitan, a 900 metre high rock face in Yosemite in the US to
bushwalking in Tasmania and the Victorian alps and cross-country skiing, rock
climbing and kayaking back home in Australia.
As the author or
co-author of 12 publications, as well as oral and poster presentations at 18
conferences, one wonders how Dr Emery manages to fit so much into each of his
very busy and productive days.
Dr Emery says most of his contact with
people with MS has come about since he developed his research interests through
groups such as the MS Society and the Myelin Repair Foundation in the US.
“Meeting and talking with these people has
definitely helped put my research into a human context for me and sustain my
interest in it,” says Dr Emery. “I have
also known researchers in the field who have close family members with MS - it’s
clearly a powerful motivator.”
“Once again the
Trish Foundation is backing a winner in funding this outstanding and inspiring
young researcher,” says Jeremy Wright, Executive Director MS Research
Breaking news - January 2012
Dr Ben Emery, a Senior Research Fellow at the
University of Melbourne’s Centre for Neuroscience, has received the AW Campbell
Award from the Australian Neurological Society (ANS) for his postdoctoral
For additional information please click here.