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Dr John Richert's visit to

Australia - March 2009

With Australia tipped to play a key role in unlocking the devastating secrets of multiple sclerosis, research in Australia was given a great lift with the recent visit of Dr John Richert, Executive Vice President for Research and Clinical Programs at the National MS Society (NMSS, USA). The NMSS is the largest private sponsor of MS research in the world, annually funding approximately $US44 million of MS research internationally. Australian scientists have received almost $A3.2 million since 2003 from the NMSS.


Chairman of the Trish Foundation's Scientific Research Committee, Professor James McLeod and Dr John Richert  

A passionate group of advocates for MS research, including Dr Richert and former Maritime Union of Australia leader, John Coombs, whose son had MS, at a Parliamentary Breakfast in Canberra, presented the Federal Government with news on progress towards the possible prevention of MS and a portfolio of vital new MS research programs. This presentation follows recent Australian discoveries that have already received global recognition.

Patron of the Trish Foundation Dr Brendan Nelson, as well as a host of other Federal Members of Parliament from both sides of the House, displayed their support of MS research the Breakfast being very well attended.

“Dr Nelson’s ongoing significant support of our cause is deeply appreciated,” said Trish Foundation Chairman Carol Langsford. “The Parliamentary Breakfast was a real inspiration.”

Dr Richert agrees with Australian scientists that the timing of life-saving research results depends largely on funding.

“There is an opportunity for the Government to help Australian MS researchers in ground-breaking discoveries which will affect millions worldwide, including new diagnostic tools, MS prevention strategies and more targeted treatments,” said Dr Richert. “Australian scientists punch well above their weight, especially considering their limited funding. But their efforts should not just be well regarded but also well resourced and integrated into clinical practice.”

MS has a personal cost that is hard to measure for people living with MS. Their day-to-day lives include pain and uncertainty; hoping they can cross the street, hoping they can keep their jobs, hoping they will avoid entering a nursing home.

Australian MS researchers are at the forefront in understanding the environmental and viral factors which could trigger MS. One Australian study has confirmed the ‘latitude gradient’ effect, which shows Tasmanians are eight times more likely to develop MS than Queenslanders. These results complement a new UK finding which links a lack of vitamin D to MS – findings that could lead to an important MS prevention trial, for which Australia is an ideal laboratory.

A submission to the Federal Government for a $5 million grant over three years, towards an MS Prevention Trial, was unsuccessful. However MS Research Australia and the Trish Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation are undeterred. Together, we will continue all our efforts to develop this important area of research.

The Trish Foundation’s Board and Scientific Research Committee were privileged to join Dr Richert during his Australian tour at a dinner hosted by Jeremy Wright, Executive Director MS Research Australia.

“To listen and chat to someone who demystifies medical science and explains in 'ordinary english' and simple metaphors enabled all of us to be more knowledgeable about the cause we are passionate about and in awe of the talents of the scientists whom we are supporting,” said Trish Foundation Board member Sue Woodward.

Second Round of Funding

In 2004 the Trish Foundation’s second round of funding for research grants, committed a further $250,000 for research into the pursuit of a cure or preventative strategy for multiple sclerosis.

Grants were made to the following researchers:

Dr Judith Greer and Professor Michael Pender – Royal Brisbane Hospital, Queensland
Dr Heinrich Korner – James Cook University, Queensland
Dr P Cabot, Dr S Roberts-Thomson, Dr G Monteith and Ms M Peitis – University of Queensland
Mr Attila Szvetko – Griffith University, Queensland Read more

Please click here for further information.

Inaugural round of Funding

In 2002 the inaugural funding round of the Trish Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation awarded five grants (detailed below).

The projects were all from major Australian Universities or Research Institutes, spread over four Australian states. They addressed genetic, environmental and other likely causes of multiple sclerosis as well as the mechanisms of demyelination and one of the cardinal early symptoms of multiple sclerosis - fatigue.

Professor Claude Bernard – Neuroimmunology Laboratory, La Trobe University, Victoria
Professor Terence Dwyer – Menzies Centre for Population Health Research, Hobart, Tasmania
Dr Steven Petratos – Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Monash University, Victoria
Dr Paul Sacco – Centre for Neuromuscular and Neurological Disorders, University of Western Australia
Dr Graeme Stewart – Institute for Immunology and Allergy Research, Westmead Millenium Institute, Westmead, NSW

Trish Foundation & MS Research Australia Working together to find a cure for MS
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