Staff Caring for Community
UOW Cares® provides opportunities for staff at UOW to make a real difference by making regular donations to charitable organisations. By giving through their pay, staff at UOW not only reduce their taxable income but also provide a regular funding stream for a range of worthy causes, focused on helping communities and individuals reach their full potential. Through UOW Cares®, individual contributions are amplified, as our collective philanthropy has a huge impact, both locally and globally.
Charity Spotlight – Motor Neurone Disease (MND) research at UOW
Professor Justin Yerbury is fighting a war against MND on two fronts: in the laboratory at UOW’s Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) and in his own nervous system. The molecular biologist is now confined to a wheelchair but continues to press ahead with work to find a treatment, and one day a cure, for MND.
MND causes progressive degeneration of motor neurones in the brain and spinal cord. People with the disease progressively lose the use of their arms and legs, their ability to speak, swallow and breathe.
Approximately 2,000 Australians are living with MND. From diagnosis, their life expectancy can be counted in years or even months with the fingers on one hand.
In a minority of cases, around 10 per cent, there is a genetic link to the disease with members of the same family contracting it. For most people diagnosed with MND, however, the disease takes hold without warning.
Prof Yerbury’s interest in MND began when several members of his family were diagnosed with it. In one six-week period his mother, grandmother and aunt all died from the disease.
He has also lost a sister, an uncle and a cousin to the disease. In order to better understand MND, Justin undertook a Bachelor of Science degree at UOW, graduating with first-class honours in 2004, and going on to receive a PhD from UOW in 2008.
He now leads a team of scientists at IHMRI that is researching neuro-degeneration and MND. In May 2016, Prof Yerbury was diagnosed with MND.
“What drives me is not the fact that I’ve been diagnosed with this disease – it’s trying to wipe this thing off the planet,” Prof Yerbury said
“MND has taken away my ability to walk, talk, move and breathe on my own – but it has not taken away my mind, my passion for research, or my determination to see MND as a treatable condition rather than a death sentence.”
The work of Prof Yerbury and his team focuses on understanding the molecular events that trigger MND. They have found that the way motor neurones handle their protein balance is a key factor in MND.
Senior Research Assistant Natalie Farrawell is part of Prof Yerbury’s team at IHMRI and shares his dedication to finding a way to treat MND.
“Every piece of information gained from our research helps us better understand what’s happening in MND and is an important step towards finding a cure for this insidious disease,” Ms Farrawell said.
“The next step is to translate that information into therapies and develop drugs that could slow the process of motor neurone disease.”
Testing potential therapies is a lengthy and expensive process, however, and one that is difficult to get funding for.
“We rely heavily on funding from philanthropic donations to keep this work going,” Prof Yerbury said.
“Donations will get us closer to testing our ideas in pre-clinical trials, and closer to having a new therapeutic strategy for MND.”
Giving at UOW
As an institution founded on philanthropy, it is no surprise that UOW staff share a generous and compassionate spirit. Since 2007, academic and professional staff have come together to support causes close to their heart.
Who do we support:
- Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME)
- Autism Spectrum (Aspect)
- Headspace Wollongong
- Indigo Foundation
- Landcare Illawarra
- MIND the GaP
- Motor Neurone Disease Research
- Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families (SCARF)
- Tanzania Teaching Program
- Transforming Futures Scholarships
- The Fred Hollows Foundation
- The Smith Family
- UOW Art Collection
- UOW Library and Archives Conservation
These cover a broad range of community and humanitarian needs and staff can choose the amount they wish to donate. UOW Cares® allows staff to give to any number of causes from the list and change the donations at any time.