Chinese partnerships to help beat brain diseases

Degenerative brain diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease will be targeted under a new partnership between Queensland scientists and Chinese experts in dementia research and traditional herbal medicine.

The Eskitis Institute has joined with the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM) to better understand the causes and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Eskitis Institute Director Professor Ron Quinn said the institute would work with SIMM to identify active compounds in traditional herbal medicines to help fight diseases.

“This new partnership will leverage traditional Chinese medicine knowledge and use the Eskitis Institute’s disease model, generated directly from Parkinson’s disease patients,” Professor Quinn said.

Science Minister Ian Walker said the new agreement between the state of Queensland and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) delivered on the election promise to revitalise frontline services.

Premier Campbell Newman and Professor Cao Jianlin, Vice Minister, MOST, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at a special ceremony today.

“These brain diseases have no cure and can devastate families, so this is an important partnership,” Mr Walker said.

“Queensland was the first state in Australia to sign an MOU with MOST in 2008.

“This agreement for another three years will build on the collaborations and projects in the areas of human health and medical research, clean energy and environmental resilience to support the state’s four-pillar economy.”

Mr Walker said research into dementia and Parkinson’s disease would benefit from agreements signed by Griffith University’s Eskitis Institute, the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM), the Queensland University’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Biophysics (IBP).

“Queensland dementia cases are projected to rise over the next 40 years and by 2050 it is projected that approximately 215,000 Queenslanders will be living with dementia,” he said.

“With such alarming figures, the Queensland Government is dedicated to better understanding the disease and one way we are doing this is through our commitment to international research collaborations.

“It’s an important part of our promise to revitalise frontline services.”

The QBI-IBP partnership will deliver a joint Australia-China research centre that will build on the work of the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research, which is supported by the Queensland and Australian Governments.

Queensland Brain Institute Founding Director, Professor Perry Bartlett said this renewed partnership with China was a positive development for dementia research not only here in Queensland but on an international scale.

“By uniting the world’s leading dementia researchers, we hope to better understand the mechanisms that regulate cognitive decline and dementia in the ageing population and provide insights for diagnosis and therapy, which is a big issue when you consider the ageing populations in China and Australia,” Professor Bartlett said.