The discovery of a new treatment for the incurable muscle-wasting disease Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) has won the top prize for a medical research team from The University of Western Australia at the 2012 WA Innovator of the Year Awards announced today.
The award-winning research by Professors Steve Wilton and Sue Fletcher from UWA's Centre for Neuromuscular and Neurological Disorders, and the Australian Neuromuscular Research Institute (ANRI) will enable the lives of many boys around the world receiving treatment for DMD to be prolonged.
DMD is the most common muscle-wasting disorder in children and causes severe, progressive muscle loss and premature death. The disease affects about one in every 3500 boys worldwide and is associated with specific inborn errors in the dystrophin gene. Without dystrophin, affected boys are usually confined to a wheelchair before age 12 and succumb to the disease by age 30.
The UWA research team developed a technology that causes the gene translation machinery to skip the mutation, resulting in an improvement or slowing of the disease process to prolong and improve the quality of life for patients with DMD.
The University's Office of Industry and Innovation has licensed the treatment - known as eteplirsen - to Sarepta Therapeutics, a US biotechnology company that is co-ordinating clinical trials and regulatory approvals required before the drug can be marketed.
UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson congratulated Professors Wilton and Fletcher on their innovative approach to tackling the disease.
"This breakthrough demonstrates how world-class scientific research at UWA can have a global impact," he said. "There are still regulatory approvals to be gained but we are very hopeful that this treatment developed at UWA will be available to all patients in the near future."
Another innovation prize was won today by UWA researchers for their AUSTRALIS Wildfire Simulator which can forecast the progression of wildfire across a landscape and project it as a series of fire perimeters onto a map won the iiNet Encouragement Award for Innovating for the Future.
The Simulation and Modelling Research Group led by Professor George Milne from UWA's School of Computer Science and Software Engineering created a highly accurate wildfire simulator that runs extremely fast, allows rapid ‘what-if' analysis and processes demands when many fires are burning simultaneously.
The 2012 WA Innovator of the Year Awards are administered by the WA Department of Commerce with support from Principal Sponsor Mitsubishi Corporation; iiNet and Woodside (Encouragement Award Sponsors); Watermark, IBM and AusIndustry; and WRAYS and WA Business News.
Professor Steve Wilton (UWA Centre for Neuromuscular and Neurological Disorder) (+61 8) 9346 3967
Winthrop Professor George Milne (UWA School of (+61 8) 6488 2717 / (+61 4) 17 820 768
Computer Science and Software Engineering)
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783