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Mason award landmark grant for CFS research

08 December 2011

Researchers at Bond University have received a landmark grant of over $800,000 to continue their ground-breaking research into identifying the cause and possible treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

In what is the largest-ever collaborative international CFS project, Bond’s Public Health and Neuroimmunology Unit (PHANU), in partnership with Queensland Health, Stanford University and Incline Village Medical Centre in Nevada, will receive a total of $831,037 over the next four years from the Judith Jane Mason & Harold Stannett Williams Memorial Foundation (the Mason Foundation).

The funding will allow chief investigators Associate Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik from Bond University and Dr Donald Staines from Queensland Health – to significantly advance their works towards identifying the cause and developing a treatment for the debilitating condition which affects a conservative estimate of 250,000 Australians.

“CFS is characterised by a multitude of severe fatigue-related symptoms that can leave many sufferers bed-ridden,” said Dr Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik.

“Unfortunately there is no clear diagnostic test available; with doctors arriving at a diagnosis by eliminating all other possibilities and only after the symptoms have persisted for six months or more.

“As a result, CFS sufferers often encounter stigmatisation and disbelief as to whether they have a ‘legitimate’ medical problem,” she said.

Teresa Zolnierkiewicz, Head of Philanthropy at ANZ Trustees which is trustee of the Mason Foundation, commented: “This Foundation, informed by an expert advisory panel, awards strategic medical and scientific research grants aimed at creating breakthroughs in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.  It has supported Dr Marshall-Gradisnik’s work for a number of years and is pleased to be providing a significant boost through one of only four Mason Special Grants awarded this year. 

“We are grateful to the benefactor of this trust, Judith Mason, for her generous commitment to alleviating the suffering of those with this illness,” she said.

Bond University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Stable said this was one of the largest nationally competitive grants that the University had received.

“This is a fantastic achievement for Bond and demonstrated the credibility and momentum of the CFS research platform at Bond in the highly contested area of biomedical and clinical research.

“I applaud Dr Marshall-Gradisnik and her team for their recent success and their dedication,” said Professor Stable.

Funded by a series of grants from the Mason Foundation, the Ramicotti Foundation, the Alison Hunter Memorial Foundation and a Queensland Smart State Grant, their research has focussed on abnormalities in the blood profiles of CFS sufferers and identifying the biomarkers responsible.

“Essentially, we’re looking at the pathology in order to gain insight into the pathway of how CFS develops,” said Dr Marshall-Gradisnik.

“Recent independent research from Norway has found that it may stem from an abnormal immunological system which is very much in line with the research we have been conducting at Bond and indicates that we are on the right track.

“This latest grant from the Mason Foundation will allow us to significantly progress our work by conducting a pilot study which could then lead to a drug trial.

“Ultimately our aim is to develop a clear diagnostic test for CFS and establish a national testing facility here at Bond University, which we believe could happen within the next five years.”

While CFS is predominantly recognised in patients over 40 years of age, it can afflict young adults and teenagers of 17 years or younger, with a six-to-one ratio of female-to-male sufferers.

It generally follows on from an episode of illness where patients don’t ‘pick up’ as well as would be expected and continue to experience persistent fatigue, restlessness and sleeplessness.

Sufferers find they are unable to do their normal daily activities; some are forced to give up work and are confined to their house or even totally bedridden.

Through its ground-breaking research over the past three years, PHANU at Bond University is now recognised as one of the most successful CFS research units in the world.

About the Mason Foundation
The goal of the Judith Jane Mason & Harold Stannett Williams Memorial Foundation is to achieve enduring, positive impact in the areas of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease through funding medical research principally into the causes, prevention and/or management of these diseases.

The Mason Foundation was established in 2003 as a result of a generous donation by Judith Jane Mason.  It provides funding nationally.  Since establishment the Mason Foundation has distributed $6.7 million in pursuit of its goal.  In 2011, the Mason Foundation awarded 23 grants totalling $3.1 million over the next four years.

Applications guidelines and other information about the Mason Foundation can be found on the ANZ Trustees website - www.anz.com/anztrustees

ANZ Trustees is the sole trustee of the Mason Foundation and is a trustee of over 230 charitable foundations that collectively allocates over $75 million for charitable purposes annually.

Dr Sonya Marshall research lab

For further information contact:
Gemma Alker
Public Relations Manager

Phone: 07 5595 1116
Mobile: 0420 927 941
Fax: 07 5595 1025
Email: galker@bond.edu.au