2022 Alumni Award for Research and Scholarship
Bachelor of Commerce, 1995
Bachelor of Science (Honours) - Advanced, 2004
Doctor of Philosophy, 2008
Professor Justin Yerbury AM is an internationally acclaimed scientific leader who has dedicated more than a decade to finding a cure for Motor Neurone Disease (MND). He has led crucial breakthroughs to grow our understanding of the disease and offer new hope to those living with the devastating condition.
When Justin learned that his family suffered from the genetic form of MND, he gave up his successful career as a professional basketballer to study biological sciences at UOW, achieving his PhD in 2008. He has since received numerous prestigious fellowships, grants and prizes, leading his research team at UOW’s Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute to seminal observations into the cause and spread of MND and how scientists can intervene.
Justin is widely regarded as the world’s foremost expert in applying proteostasis to an understanding of MND and was instrumental in a major research collaboration leading to the development and preclinical trial of a new genetic test. He is among the University’s highest performers in securing external research funding and has attracted significant fundraising contributions to further the scope and impact of his work.
In 2016, Justin was himself diagnosed with MND and deteriorated rapidly. By 2018, he was rendered immobile, only able to communicate via eye/computer recognition. Despite this, he continues to lead a vibrant and productive research group and has used his profile in the media and community – spurred by sharing his journey and determination to find a cure on ABC’s Australian Story in 2018 – to bring MND to the forefront of the global conversation.
Justin has also continued to author and co-author scientific papers, guided and supervised PhD students, spoken at events and lectures, and received one of Australia’s most prestigious MND prizes for his excellence in research.
He was named Wollongong Citizen of the Year in 2019, and on Australia Day in 2020 was made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to education and research in the biological sciences.
Chancellor, Professor Justin Yerbury’s contribution to MND research and awareness – achieved alongside his own struggle with the disease – is profound and enduring.
It is a privilege to present Professor Justin Yerbury AM for the Alumni Award for Research and Scholarship.