WA Governor visits top medical research institute as its new Patron

December 3, 2014

The Governor of Western Australia, Her Excellency the Honourable Kerry Sanderson AO visited the Western Australian Neuroscience Research Institute (WANRI) at Murdoch University on Monday to become its official Patron.

WANRI is Western Australia’s oldest medical research institute with laboratories at the QEII Medical Centre and now also at Murdoch University.

The newly appointed WANRI Chairman, Roger Hussey said they were honoured that Her Excellency had chosen to become their Patron and support WANRI's mission of delivering world-class research and patient care to improve the quality of life for sufferers of neurological disease.

“The Governor is a passionate advocate for scientific research and her support comes at an incredibly important time for both our organisation and neuroscience in Australia,” Mr Hussey said.

"With Australia’s ageing population, we face an unprecedented rise in the number of people with neurological disorders. WANRI is addressing this imminent need by significantly expanding the scope and depth of its research in coming years.”

Murdoch University researchers Professor Steve Wilton, Director of WANRI and the Foundation Chair in Molecular Therapy, Professor Sue Fletcher, Principal Research Fellow from the Centre for Comparative Genomics, and Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Andrew Taggart accompanied the Governor on her tour of the facilities.

“WANRI brings together a dedicated group of researchers and clinicians, many pre-eminent in their fields, who through scientific innovation are making ground-breaking discoveries into the origins of neurological disorders, and the diagnosis and treatment of these debilitating conditions,” Professor Taggart said.

Professors Wilton and Fletcher were recently awarded just over $790,000 in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to develop genetic drugs to treat rare diseases through their research work.

This funding follows their success in pioneering a new drug for people with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) that saw Professors Wilton and Fletcher awarded the prestigious Australian Museum Eureka Prize in 2013 for their research. This drug is currently being tested in a clinical trial in the US and nearly three years into the trial, patients still continue to walk when, without treatment, it's expected they would be in a wheelchair.

Mrs Sanderson said that as WANRI's new patron she was excited to hear more detail on the ground breaking genetics research being done by Professors Wilton and Fletcher and their team, including their internationally-acclaimed research into DMD.

"I was very moved to hear that one of the boys involved in the DMD clinical trial has dramatically improved in his school grades after realising that he may now continue to walk as he grows older,” she said.

"It's these kind of life-changing possibilities that inspire the medical researchers at WANRI and those who support them."

Mrs Sanderson was interested to learn about the wide ranging research projects of WANRI during her visit.

Beyond DMD, research groups are investigating the causes, diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders such as spinal muscular atrophy, multiple sclerosis, metabolic disorders, motor neuron disease, stroke, brain inflammation and brain cancer.

The institute is also currently recruiting for a clinical trial to improve walking and balance in patients with multiple sclerosis and using robotics to enhance recovery of function after stroke.

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