Griffith University biomedical researchers take home top award

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PCSRF is proud to announce that a research spin-off by the Spinal Injury Project team at Griffith University has been awarded the prestigious Marshall and Warren Innovation Award at the annual NHMRC Research Excellence Awards in Canberra on 11 March.

Associate Professor James St John, Associate Professor Jenny Ekberg, Dr Matt Barton and Dr Brent McMonagle and their team have invented a new technology to generate nerve bridges that can be used to repair traumatic injuries to nerves. 

The researchers were awarded $715,060 in NHMRC funding to expand the nerve bridge technology that they have developed for treating spinal cord injuries so that it can be applied to repairing peripheral nerve injuries as well.  

“The NHMRC funding enables us to keep the brilliant team of scientists, including Dr Mo Chen who developed the innovative technology during his PhD. We will now test the nerve bridges in comprehensive pre-clinical experiments” Associate Professor James St John said. 

PCSRF has played a critical role in the project by funding the research the has led to the nerve bridge technology. In particular, PCSRF funded the salaries of Dr Mo Chen and Dr Tanja Eindorf in 2019-2020. It is now wonderful to see the NHMRC commit to funding the project and support the research team, and to see the potential impact of the research recognised by the Marshall and Warren Innovation Award.

Associate Professor Jenny Ekberg said: “despite intense research into the biology of nerve injury, advanced surgical techniques and rehabilitation programs, many peripheral nerve injuries, particularly big injuries, cannot be satisfactorily repaired. Our overall hope is that the project will demonstrate that nerve bridges are highly effective so we can progress to future human clinical trials.

Dr Brent McMonagle, the Scientific Director and Board Member of PCSRF, who is an ear, nose & throat surgeon, said: “Peripheral nerve injures are common, leading to muscle weakness and sensory effects such as numbness and pain. These effects can be devastating on employability and quality of life, and they pose significant financial costs to the individual and health care system.”

He said the work will occur in parallel with the ground-breaking and equally exciting work on repairing spinal cord injury led by Associate Professor James St John and Associate Professor Jenny Ekberg.

(Pictured from L to R) – Spinal Injury Project team members, Assoc Prof James St John, Dr Mo Chen, Dr Matt Barton, Dr Brent McMonagle and Assoc Prof  Jenny Ekberg.

The Foundation would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our wonderful and generous supporters for joining us on a mission to cure paralysis. Through your generous support we have been able to provide funding for this dedicated team of researchers at the Spinal Injury Project at Griffith University. 

The Marshall and Warren Award recognises the most innovative grant in each year’s Ideas Grant scheme. The award is named after Australian Nobel Laureates Professors Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who were awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.

Visit the Griffith University website to read more.

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