Justin Yerbury in the lab, January 2020.

Professor Justin Yerbury receives Premier’s Prize for Medical Biological Sciences

Professor Justin Yerbury receives Premier’s Prize for Medical Biological Sciences

Motor neurone disease researcher honoured by NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer

University of Wollongong (UOW) academic Professor Justin Yerbury has received the award for Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences in the 2022 NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering.

The Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering celebrate the work of the state’s leading science and engineering researchers and recognise their contributions to the economy, environment, and wellbeing of the people of NSW.

Professor Yerbury said, "The Premier's Prize award winners list reads like a who's who of science in NSW. It is a great honour to be recognised and mentioned in the same breath as the previous winners.”  

Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen, who nominated Professor Yerbury for the award, said he is an inspirational leader in his field.

“Justin’s research on motor neurone disease (MND) is world leading. Justin is also a tireless advocate for MND patients and the changes he has effected in equity and accessibility policies are truly remarkable.”

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 has shown that the collection of proteins inside the cell are supersaturated, explaining how dysfunction in the cellular machinery to keep proteins stable can lead to MND. It is the first real advance in the understanding of protein deposits in decades and, for the first time, links biomedical processes to the physical symptoms of MND.

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 MDN is significant.

The award caps off a successful year for Professor Yerbury, in which he was also awarded the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.

Professor Yerbury leads a research program based at UOW's Molecular Horizons Institute  that has challenged prevailing thought about the pathology of Motor Neuron Disease (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.