“The ‘holy grail’ of MS research? Finding the
cause, of course.”
This simple statement underpins the work of
Associate Professor Helmut Butzkueven, a long-term and much valued research
partner of the Trish Foundation.
Originally from Germany, Associate Professor
Butzkueven’s interest in neuroscience and immunology dates back to his school
days. Yet it wasn’t until he moved to Australia
in 1984 that the decision was taken to make it his career - studying Medicine
at Melbourne University and qualifying as a
neurologist in 1999.
Associate Professor Butzkueven then went on to do a
PhD in animal models of MS at the Walter and Eliza Institute.
“We still need to translate animal work to human
drugs, and to my mind this kind of research translation is one of the most
important challenges for MS researchers in Australia,” he comments.
The Trish Foundation is extremely proud to have
co-funded Associate Professor Butzkueven’s first Post-Doctoral Fellowship with
the NHMRC from 2006-2009. As the recipient of the inaugural Betty Cuthbert
Fellowship, he established and managed the rapid expansion of an international
online MS outcomes registry run out of the Royal Melbourne
Hospital. This registry
follows more than 16,500 MS patients worldwide, including over 2,100 Australians.
“This registry is an invaluable resource as it is
beginning to answer some very important questions regarding the long-term
outcomes of MS now, as well as the usefulness of MS treatments”, Associate
Professor Butzkueven explains.
During this time, Associate Professor Butzkueven
also collaborated with a network of Australian and New Zealand scientists focusing
solely on genetics and MS research. “I am very proud to have helped establish a
large collaborative genetics study which discovered two new MS-related genes
and continues to contribute a lot to our knowledge of the genetics of MS”, he
Currently, the Trish Foundation funds Associate
Professor Butzkueven’s research focusing on the molecule Dab2, produced by an
immune cell type called macrophages.
Associate Professor Butzkueven explains:
“Macrophages are the immune cells that probably do most of the permanent damage
in MS lesions. We are testing whether Dab2 is important in brain injury in MS,
using animal models. This work is incredibly exciting because, if we can learn
how to reduce or switch off Dab2 levels, we might be able to reduce this
Professor Bill Carroll, Chairman of the MS Research
Australia's Research Review Board and Research Management Council confirms Dr
Butzkueven's work is of the highest order. "He is one of the most
outstanding clinician/scientists working in Australia. He has been able to span
the wide range of research between the laboratory and the bedside".
Although a ‘typical working day’ does not exist,
Associate Professor Butzkueven spends a lot of his time project planning and
managing a lab focusing solely on human MS genetics and immunology at the
Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne. He also works at two MS
Clinics at the Box Hill and Royal
commencing in 2002, these clinics now see approximately 1,500 people with MS.
Married with two daughters aged 13 and 10, and the
proud owner of a female dog, Associate Professor Butzkueven freely admits he’s
‘fifth in charge’ outside of the laboratory and is happy to let the women in
his life take charge. He confesses to “battling a German’s love for cheese and
pork” and loves to cook, with Neil Perry’s ‘Balance & Harmony’ cookbook the
latest source of culinary inspiration.
And when there is time to take a much-deserved
break from his inspirational work for MS, the Butzkueven family pack up and
head to an isolated spot in East Gippsland Victoria to enjoy the simple pleasures of
camping and hiking.
Associate Professor Butzkueven’s passion for his
research into MS is because of the people with MS. “It’s a great privilege to
have met so many and to have walked with them for a while. I detest the damage
that an illness like MS wreaks on so many people’s lives. But I am noticing that
medical science is starting to do a lot better, with new and effective drugs
being developed and entering clinical practice. This proves that research is
“Helmut is a top clinician and terrific researcher
– with this research he is fast-tracking our efforts to eventually solve MS,”
says Executive Director MS Research Australia, Jeremy Wright.