Professor Justin Yerbury is given the a plaque with a Key to the City of Wollongong by Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery during a ceremony at council. Photo: Paul Jones

Professor Justin Yerbury honoured with Keys to the City of Wollongong

Professor Justin Yerbury honoured with Keys to the City of Wollongong

Renowned researcher recognised in ceremony hosted by Lord Mayor

Internationally renowned scientist and University of Wollongong (UOW) researcher, Professor Justin Yerbury, yesterday (Monday, 14 November) received the Keys to the City of Wollongong.

During a ceremony at Wollongong City Council, Professor Yerbury was honoured for his significant achievements in the research of motor neurone disease (MND), and for his inspiration and determination while living with a disability.

The ceremony was attended by Professor Yerbury, who was diagnosed with MND in 2016, and his family, including his wife Rachel and Wollongong City Councillors.

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM congratulated Professor Yerbury on his immense achievements in the research space and his advocacy on behalf of people with a disability.

“Wollongong City Council is pleased to honour and recognise Professor Justin Yerbury AM and his extraordinary contribution to our city and to the wellbeing of humanity,” Councillor Bradbery said.

“The presentation of the Keys to the City is one of the most prestigious ways Council can recognise an individual’s efforts on behalf of our community. On behalf of the City of Wollongong, thank you for your achievements and contribution to some of the most cutting-edge research about the pathology of Motor Neurone Disease.

“Professor Yerbury’s research in the field of biological sciences, his leadership in his field, tenacity of spirt and advocacy for those with disability is inspirational. He is exactly the sort of person we want to celebrate in our city, and it’s a privilege to be able to acknowledge Professor Yerbury by awarding him the Keys to the City.”

Councillor Bradbery nominated Professor Yerbury for the honour during a Wollongong City Council meeting in September, a motion that was supported by Councillor Tania Brown and Councillor Mithra Cox.

Professor David Currow, UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Health and Sustainable Futures) and Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), congratulated Professor Yerbury on the prestigious honour.

“Justin’s leadership, vision and creativity in his research has driven fundamental new understandings of motor neurone disease. He is a world-leader in his field and has devoted his life’s work to finding a cure for MND.

“On a personal level, the changes Justin has driven in equity and accessibility policies, and in advocating on behalf of all people with a disability, in the face of his adversity, are awe-inspiring and truly remarkable.

“On behalf of UOW, I would like to congratulate Justin on receiving the keys to the City of Wollongong. It is a huge honour of which we are all immensely proud.”

Professor Yerbury joins a long line of Illawarra luminaries who have received the keys to the city, including Olympian Emma McKeon and violinist Richard Tognetti.

Professor Yerbury’s work is dedicated to understanding MND – a devastating disease where the nerves that control movement are attacked leading to loss of muscle control, muscle atrophy and invariably death.

While the precise mechanism causing cellular dysfunction in the affected motor neurons remains unknown, his work has radically shifted the understanding of the mechanism of protein aggregation into deposits and cellular dysfunction in MND. His findings have been accepted by leaders in the fields of biochemistry, cell biology and neuroscience.

Professor Yerbury’s discoveries have led to preclinical testing of therapeutic strategies, development of therapeutic antibodies and genetic tests for MND. The potential benefit of this work for families affected by MND is significant.

The award caps off a successful year for Professor Yerbury, in which he was also awarded the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research as well as the Award for Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences in the 2022 NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering.

Professor Yerbury leads a research program based at UOW's Molecular Horizons Institute that has challenged prevailing thought about the pathology of MND, a degenerative disease with no known cure.

To find out about how you can support Professor Yerbury and his team to make MND a treatable condition, visit the Motor Neurone Disease Fund website.