Premier and Minister for the Arts
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk
Treasurer and Minister for Trade and Investment
The Honourable Curtis Pitt
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
A $5 million funding boost from the Palaszczuk Government will help Griffith University researchers and medical clinicians continue their ground-breaking work into healing spinal cord injuries.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the $5 million investment will support the pre-clinical development of a spinal cord therapy based on cells isolated from the nose – known as olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) – into a clinical trial.
The research aims to produce a 3D bio-degradable nerve cell bridge that can be transplanted to repair injured spinal cords.
“Griffith University’s research team has the unique know-how and clinical trial experience following the work of current Queenslander and Australian of the Year Professor Emeritus Alan Mackay-Sim,” the Premier said.
“Griffith’s spinal injury cure project has the potential to help remove barriers for spinal cord nerve cells and enable functional recovery – which would position Queensland research as the global leader in this key medical research and injury recovery field.
“I’m delighted to be providing this $5 million funding over the next three years to continue to support the pioneering work being undertaken by a great Queensland-based team of researchers and clinicians.”
Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the funding will be provided by the Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC), the regulatory authority responsible for regulating Queensland’s compulsory third party insurance scheme.
“MAIC can see that this has the potential to substantially lower health costs and could provide associated benefits through improved productivity of patients and carers; as well as generate jobs through training and physiotherapy,” Mr Pitt said.
“Across Australia there are around 12,000 people with spinal cord injury, a large number of which have occurred as a result of motor vehicle accidents.
“The associated economic cost of these injuries, including health system, carer support and loss of productivity, is estimated to be more than $2 billion each year.
“In Queensland, an analysis of Compulsory Third Party claims finalised in 2016 shows spinal cord injury claims costs totalled $42.6 million.
“However you look at it, the cost of spinal cord injury is a significant one for individuals, their families and carers and the broader community.”
Dr James St John, Head of the Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research at Griffith University, will lead the project working alongside a team of high quality research staff mostly from across south east Queensland.
Dr St John said the vital funding would provide a range of large scale benefits to Queensland and more broadly internationally.
“Having support from the Queensland Government through MAIC builds on the research developed by funding from the Clem Jones Group and the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation.
Dr St John said Perry Cross’ unstinting support in the early days was crucial.
“We are at this exciting stage now because of Perry and his unshakeable belief and commitment to discover life-changing treatments.
“This project aims to produce a 3D bio-degradable cell nerve bridge that can be transplanted to repair the injured spinal cord.
“We also aim to establish a post-surgery physiotherapy regime to promote a patient’s functional recovery.”
The use of transplantation of autologous (a patient’s own) cells to repair injured spinal cord has been shown to be safe for use in humans and effective in restoring function – motor function and sensation – in at least one human. This therapy has its origins in Queensland with the world’s first Phase One clinical trial using autologous olfactory ensheathing cells conducted in Brisbane in 2002 led by Professor Emeritus Alan Mackay-Sim from the Eskitis Institute at Griffith University. Subsequently a team from the Cambridge University’s Stem Cell Institute applied this concept to cure spinal injury in dogs. In 2014, a British/Polish study showed this theory can result in dramatic recovery from spinal cord injury in humans with a patient with chronic spinal cord injury regaining motor and sensory function.
Media contacts: Premier’s Office: 0419 020 093
Treasurer’s Office: 0419 945 546
Griffith University: 0408 727 734