Dr Brett Collins (centre) and his lab
Dr Brett Collins (centre) and his lab

10 June 2013

Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek and Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler have announced funding to support six new dementia research projects.

Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the projects will investigate new ways to improve the health and quality of life for Australians affected by dementia.

Scientists at The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) and Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) have been awarded $456,787 to investigate potential new drug targets for Alzheimer’s treatment.

Currently, most research and treatments attempt to either block the enzymes that generate amyloid material in the brain that causes Alzheimer’s or “mop-up” that material after it has been created.

The project’s chief investigator Dr Brett Collins from IMB says both these approaches can result in reduced functioning of the brain in other areas.

"We’re looking at how amyloid precursors are normally transported in the brain by cellular machinery that moves proteins around our body, and how this machinery can cause a build up of toxic amyloid material,” Dr Collins said.

“So ultimately we’re actually looking at how we can return normal brain functioning by giving these machines a helping hand to avoid the build up that causes dementia.

“Essentially the aim of this project is to stabilise the functionality of the brain in the first place, rather than cleaning up the mess afterwards,” he said.

IMB Director Professor Brandon Wainwright thanked the NHMRC for its continued support of Australian medical research.

“Dementia discovery research has been a priority area for UQ researchers for many years.

“The complexity of dementia makes it one of the most challenging areas for drug discovery.

“The urgent need for better treatments for dementia makes this research project and its commitment to the search for new drug targets all the more important for the future health of Australia.

“This project will require novel scientific approaches, leadership and expertise from our IMB researchers and QBI research colleagues as they work to move this project through the drug discovery pipeline.

“Dr Brett Collins and his multidisciplinary team are well equipped for this pioneering project and their efforts will provide a further boost to IMB’s existing capabilities of translating discoveries into new diagnostics and therapeutic treatments for dementia.

“NHMRC grants are awarded to the best and brightest medical researchers in our country, and we are proud to count our researchers among them,” Professor Wainwright said.

Ms Plibersek said the Gillard Labor Government is committed to improving the health and quality of life of our older Australians and this research aims to make dementia a far less debilitating condition than what it is today.

“Dementia is likely to affect 900,000 Australians by 2050 and I’m proud that Australia is acting now in whole range of areas like research, awareness and better services,” Ms Plibersek said.

Mr Butler said dementia had achieved national prominence this decade and it was important that we continued to support Australian research

“We’ve made dementia a national priority area this year and that’s supported with research funding and support through organisations like the NHMRC,” Mr Butler said.

ENDS

Photo and interview opportunities with chief investigators Dr Brett Collins from IMB and Associate Professor Elizabeth Coulson from QBI are available on request.

Contact: Gemma Ward, IMB Acting Communications Officer on (07) 3346 2155 or 0439 651 107

The Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is a research institute of The University of Queensland that aims to improve quality of life by advancing personalised medicine, drug discovery and biotechnology.

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