logo-macquarie-bankMS Research Australia and JDRF Australia have co-awarded an innovative research fellowship for a new study looking for overlaps between two autoimmune diseases – multiple sclerosis (MS) and type 1 diabetes (T1D), thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Macquarie Group Foundation.

Dr Grant Parnell, a young medical researcher at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research, has been awarded the one year Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship to investigate the gaps in existing research regarding the similarities of these two diseases.

Dr Parnell said “Both are autoimmune diseases which are a result of complex genetic and environmental interactions. My investigations will look for patterns in immune cells that are similar for both type 1 diabetes and MS, and identify relevant shared interactions between genes, and between genes and the environment.”

“My goal with this fellowship is to uncover promising new research pathways and unlock new knowledge of autoimmunity,” he said.

Dr Parnell will be mentored through this project by two internationally renowned researchers from the fields of MS and T1D, Professor Graeme Stewart, from WIMR and Professor Chris Goodnow, Garvan Institute of Medical Research; and will be supervised by Associate Professor David Booth, an expert in the functional genetics of autoimmune diseases.

JDRF CEO, Mike Wilson said of this project: “This is an exciting partnership established between MS Research Australia and JDRF and it wouldn’t be possible without the funding support from the Macquarie Group Foundation.”

“By working closely in alliance with a like-minded organisation such as MS Research Australia, with a focus on accelerating life-changing breakthroughs in autoimmune disease research, our impact is multiplied through shared expertise, resources and passion. I am excited by what we can learn from investigating the common grounds between these two autoimmune diseases.”

Dr Matthew Miles, CEO MS Research Australia said, “The fields of both disease states have much to learn from each other and we are thrilled that this unique fellowship will allow us to formally recognise and build this area of research.”

“This funding partnership with JDRF Australia is unique for both NFP organisations. It has allowed us to partner with another high-impact charitable research organisation working in another disease. I believe this cross-disciplinary approach is critically important”.

“The Macquarie Group Foundation is pleased to support this partnership between MS Research Australia and JDRF Australia. This is an innovative and collaborative research project and we look forward to great outcomes for many people,” said Shemara Wikramanayake, Chair of the Macquarie Group Foundation.

“This type of collaboration is a novel way to address research questions that apply to more than one disease and we think it is an important way to accelerate outcomes for both MS and type 1 diabetes, and, possibly, hundreds of thousands of people in Australia with autoimmune diseases,” she added.

JDRF and Type 1 Diabetes

JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF Australia is built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on an international stage to pool resources, passion and energy. Our mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested nearly $2 billion since our inception. We collaborate with academic institutions, policymakers, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers in seven countries are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement and our vision of a world without T1D. JDRF was awarded Charity of the Year 2014. For more information visit or on Facebook at or Twitter @jdrfaus

Type 1 diabetes is a life-long autoimmune disease that usually occurs in childhood but can be diagnosed at any age. The condition affects more than 120,000 Australians, with approximately 1,825 new diagnoses each year.


MS Research Australia and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS Research Australia is the largest national not-for-profit organisation dedicated to funding and coordinating multiple sclerosis research in Australia, as part of the worldwide effort to solve MS. Its goal is to accelerate research: into the cause, better treatments and prevention, with the aim of ultimately finding a cure for MS. MS Research Australia was awarded Charity of the Year 2015. For further information visit

MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young Australian adults, often diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40 and affects three times more women than men. As yet, there is no cure.

MS is the result of damage to myelin – a protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system. When myelin is damaged, this interferes with messages between the brain and other parts of the body. The symptoms of MS are different for each person; sometimes they even vary within the same person. For some, MS is characterised by periods of relapse and remission, while for others it has a progressive pattern. For everyone, it makes life unpredictable.

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