Professor Justin Yerbury, Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute

Quest to eradicate Motor Neurone Disease honoured in national awards

Quest to eradicate Motor Neurone Disease honoured in national awards

Justin Yerbury recognised by Research Australia in its national Health and Medical Research Awards

From the lab and throughout his life, Professor Justin Yerbury AM has dedicated himself to finding a cure for Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and advocating for the needs of people who, like himself, live with MND.

An internationally respected leader in MND research who has also shared his personal story to shine a light on the challenges faced by people living with MND, Professor Yerbury has been recognised for his lifelong commitment and impact by Research Australia in its national Health and Medical Research Awards.

MND is a fatal disease that affects nerves called motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, which affects the functioning of the muscles that controls movement. Having lost family members to the disease, including his mother and sister, Professor Yerbury has been driven to find a cure.

Professor Yerbury has openly shared his story and his research with the public, attracting over $11 million in research and philanthropic funding to the fight against MND and inspiring the next generation of young researchers.

He has also used his public platform to advocate for the needs of people with MND and their families – most recently during the pandemic, calling for those with disability and chronic diseases to be at the forefront of pandemic decision-making. Inside academia, Professor Yerbury has used his own experience as a researcher with MND to be a vocal advocate for inclusivity and diversity in the medical sector.

Professor Yerbury’s tireless efforts and unwavering commitment to MND advocacy and research have earned him a place as a finalist in the Advocacy category of Research Australia’s prestigious annual Awards.

The Advocacy Award, sponsored by AbbVie, recognises exceptional contributions by an individual or team who has supported Australian communities through championing and raising awareness about the importance of health and medical research. 

Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin commended Professor Yerbury for his advancements in MND research, noting his resilience in the face of numerous challenges.

“Professor Yerbury’s research has transformed our understanding of a major hallmark of MND pathology and its link to motor neuron dysfunction, making trials of therapeutic strategies possible,” Ms Levin said.

“Justin’s accomplishments are only made more remarkable by the fact they’ve happened despite the pandemic disrupting access to his lab and as the challenges of MND have left him paralysed, unable to speak and unable to breathe independently.

“Professor Yerbury is a beacon of hope and resilience both inside and outside the lab. It truly is an honour to be recognising his outstanding efforts at this year’s awards.” 

Professor Yerbury said he was honoured to be recognised and thanked his colleagues for their hard work to improve the lives of Australians living with MND.

“We have come a long way in our understanding of MND, but there is still much work to be done,” he said.  

“My own personal condition is inextricably linked to the research that we are doing. I need to see this disease beaten into submission before I leave this world.

“By thinking outside the box, our lab has learned a lot about the molecular processes that cause MND. The next step is to translate that knowledge into therapies and the development of new drugs.”

Winners of the 19th Health and Medical Research Awards will be announced in Melbourne on December 8.  These Awards recognise and showcase the best research minds and research implementors, along with those amazing individuals who support and promote Australia’s incredible health and medical research.

For the past 22 years, Research Australia, the national peak body for Australian health and medical research, has advocated for a sustainable research and innovation eco-system.