Saving the ageing brain

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1. Summary (Provide a short plain English summary of your work, ~150 words)

Nerve cells (neurons) in the brain are normally lost as we age. The unnatural and accelerated loss of these cells is, however, a hallmark of brain diseases that are now being classified as “diseases of ageing”. Motor neuron disease (MND) is one of these devastating conditions where the loss of neurons in the brain and spinal cord leads to muscle paralysis and death, usually within 2-5 years from diagnosis. There is currently no effective treatment for MND, and hence no cure. My laboratory is working towards a greater understanding of the processes that control energy use in the brain during disease so that we can prevent neurons from dying. My immediate goal is to translate basic science discoveries into viable treatments to minimise the impact and slow the effects of neurodegeneration. In the long term, I hope to find a cure for diseases such as MND. To meet these goals, I am focused on personalised treatments, given that no two patients are the same.

2. Description (Describe the benefit of your research to Queenslanders, ~500 words)

An increase in brain diseases associated with an ageing population is placing an increasing burden on our health system. Although we tend to associate diseases of the brain with old age, these diseases are also becoming more prevalent in younger individuals. My research complements Queensland’s existing strength in the study of neurodegenerative disease and aligns with Queensland’s science and research priority of supporting the translation of health research. By helping Queensland mitigate the pressures associated with increased health spending on age-associated diseases, I am working towards the goal of a healthier ageing population.

By working with the MND community in Queensland, nationally, and globally, my research ensures that everyone in the larger MND family plays a central role in my community-directed research goals. I am commited to informing the wider community about the impact that MND has on peoples’ lives. This builds a strong foundation upon which local communities can provide support for all Queenslanders who are affected by MND.

Through my research, I aim to deliver translational research outcomes that will make a difference to the wellbeing of Queenslanders who are afflicted by diseases of the ageing brain. In doing so, I am attracting local, national, and international interest in Queensland-driven research. This is strengthening collaborations and providing a knowledge-based platform to build critical mass that will accelerate Queensland-based STEM discoveries, thereby delivering high-quality research training, and developing novel and innovative strategies to tackle disease. My goal is to deliver the Queensland-born discoveries of today that will lead to the treatments of tomorrow.

3. Additional Details (Short biography, list of key collaborators and summary of your track-record, ~500 words)

I am a Queensland-born scientist who is working towards a world free of MND. During my PhD in neuroscience, I discovered the intricacies that define the connections between nerves cells and muscle. After completing my PhD in 2009, I took up a position with Prof Pamela McCombe and Dr Robert Henderson, neurologists at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital who lead a dedicated clinical team that focus on treating age-related brain diseases such as MND. I developed a novel research niche in 2012, and have grown my research program in MND over the last 3 years. My laboratory at UQ specialises in the discovery of treatments to reverse or stop the effects of ageing on the brain.

To find a cure for age-related diseases of the brain we must work together. I actively collaborate with many national and global experts including: Prof Leonard van den Berg, a global neurology expert on MND (Netherlands); Prof Jean-Philippe Loeffler, an expert in understanding how metabolism affects brain diseases (France); Prof Naomi Wray, an expert in investigating the genetics of disease (Queensland); and Prof Miguel Esteban, an expert in stem cell technology (China).
While connections with our peers will create new knowledge, we have a lot to learn from the communities we serve. Through MND Queensland and the MND and Me Foundation, I have the privilege and honour of connecting and working with families and friends of those living with MND. I am also a friend of the Cure for MND Foundation (Victoria), Team Frate Train (USA), and The J9 Foundation (South Africa). These foundations motivate and inspire my team in seeking strategies to improve the wellbeing of individuals affected by diseases of the brain.

Research Output and Input:
I have published 20 papers (50% as first, corresponding or senior author) in leading journals in the fields of neuroscience, neurology, and endocrinology. My work has received over 470 citations and demonstrates its growing impact. My research has been recognised through prestigious awards including: the MND Research Institute of Australia (MNDRIA) Bill Gole Fellowship (2012-2015), the Australian Academy of Science FASIC Early Career Fellowship (2012), The Scott Sullivan MND Fellowship (2015-2018), and the Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) Senior Researcher Award (2015). In the past 5 years, I have delivered 16 national and international conference presentations. Since 2012, I have received over M$1.5 in competitive funding, including lead investigator research grants from the MNDRIA and the NH&MRC.

Scientific Activities:
As a Director of the Board of the ASMR, I am an advocate for promoting health and medical research in Queensland and Australia. I actively promoted women in STEM on UN Day for Women and Girls in Science, and will continue to do so in the Q-Weekend and on ABC 612 on International Women's Day in March. I take pride in mentoring women in STEM and provide them with opportunities to pursue excellence in research innovation and collaboration. I currently mentor 6 young Queensland women who are conducting their PhDs or undergraduate research in the clinical and basic sciences. As a testament to my passion for mentorship, they have received esteemed awards including the Griffith University Award for Academic Excellence.

Outreach Activities:
I am driven to inspire and empower people living with neurodegenerative disease by regularly conveying research to the wider community (including on ABC 612 and 96.5 Family FM). I volunteer for, and write research updates for the MND and Me Foundation to ensure that the community remains connected and informed about global research outcomes. I organised the 2015 MND Symposium in Brisbane, bringing together the MND community (patients/family/friends), the general public, and basic and clinical researchers to discuss current progress in MND. I also organised the 2015 ASMR Schools’ Quiz to encourage high school students to learn about medical research, and have presented my work to Year 9 STEM students at the Gap State High School.


Leoni McFarlane
over 4 years ago

I am very honoured to know this wonder person. My husband has MND and all the research that she does to help find a cure is priceless.

I always follow what Shuy does and Thank her for her relentless search and hard work.

Lots of love

Bernice Nel
over 4 years ago

I am friends with Shu and Derik on FB for a few years now. I always follow Shu and thank her for having so much empathy towards those with Als Mnd and there families and for being such a Real person. Pray they find the Cure we all waiting for my husband has Als Mnd a 11 year survivor of Bulbar Als Mnd. We need that cure my Vote is for Shu.

Renee Gia
over 4 years ago

Thank you for your work this far and best of luck for your endeavour to cure MND. I desperately hope you do, & soon. My dad was diagnosed with MND 4 years ago and lives in Paddington, Brisbane. If you have any trials or just want to reach out to him, let me know.

Shyuan Ngo
over 4 years ago

Hi Reneeg, thank you for your support. Would love to talk with your dad if he wants to talk about the research we do.

Douglas Livingstone
over 4 years ago

Do not go where the path may lead you. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trac3y Trac3y
over 4 years ago

ForEver grateful and extremely hopeful that your research will find a cure. Such a cruel .. mean... awful disease. More funding is desperately needed for your research. All our thanks

Kim Evans
over 4 years ago

Shyu is the recipient of the Bob Delaney Reseach Grant from MNDRIA. She is a very dedicated and talented researcher who brings a wonderful humanity to her the journey with those who fight deadly disease and in particular MND. It is very inspiring to be actively involved with Shyu in her determination to use her skill and energy to fight and hopefully eradicate brain and nerve associated disease.

Wayne Patterson
over 4 years ago

As a person living with MND I can tell you its reassuring to know that Shu is in the world. She is the human dynamo we need to help crack this thing.

Joy Balderson
over 4 years ago

I am involved with MND Research being diagnosed last year. Shu, Derik and Team have been very supportive. I wish them every success to find a cure for this terrible disease.

Jean Denney
over 4 years ago

I found the information on this video very good, and explains a lot. I think that the work you are doing is wonderful, and I do hope that research will eventually find a cure for this. Jean 123

Max Atfield
over 4 years ago

I wish this project every success

avenlee001 avenlee001
over 4 years ago

I have known Shu for many years. Shu is a turbo charged and committed scientist who really wants to make a difference in MND research. She has a supportive team of researchers and clinicians who are chipping away and determined to one day find a cure for this devastating disease.

matts matts
over 4 years ago

Shu and Derik are two of the most amazing research scientists in the industry. Their relentless tenacity in seeking out a cure for MND is an inspiration to all who know them, particularly those of us who merely skim the surface of scientific endeavor. Great people working towards a great goal.

uqpeterc uqpeterc
over 4 years ago

I have known Shu for several years within The University of Queensland research environment. She is an intelligent, highly dedicated, hard working scientist. She is committed to unravelling the disease process behind MND, but cannot continue without appropriate funding on a regular basis. I wish her the best of luck with her research efforts.

LiLi Wang
over 4 years ago

Shu is a very dedicated researcher and her achievement is amazing. Wish you best luck and your dream of cure for MND becomes true very soon.

shu4president shu4president
over 4 years ago

Good for it Shu!!

Lino Montuno
over 4 years ago

Shu stands out as very positive, proactive & determined person. Now that she's professional scientist, it can only be a good thing!

Bill Barclay
over 4 years ago

Dr Shyuan Ngo (Shu), along with her wonderful research colleagues, Dr Frederik Steyn (Derik) and Dr Zara Ioannides have been an ongoing source of invaluable advice, inspiration and hope to me since my diagnosis in March 2014. Shu, Derik & Zara are part of the brilliant MND Research Team that is led by Dr Robert Henderson and Prof. Pamela McCombe … and so many other wonderful people at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital and UQCCR.

Jenny Ekberg
over 4 years ago

Dr Ngo is one of the best scientists in Australia and a very worthy winner.

Sun Heo
over 4 years ago

I am proud for Dr. Ngo and thankful. Much respect.

Olivia de Barake
over 4 years ago

Dr Shyuan Ngo (Shu) is a very dedicated researcher, I have no doubt she will find the cure for MND and her efforts will be highly reward.

Mia Kia
over 4 years ago

Keep up with the good job and dedication.

Graham Davies
over 4 years ago

Shu and Derik have been great for me to talk to regarding my father. Its good to know genuine people like Shu and Derik are committed to research.

Michael Simpson
over 4 years ago

Shu is fearless, passionate and tenacious. she will beat this disease.

Mia Mia
over 4 years ago

Well done shyuan, such an awesome cause and important research! Behind you all the way-you got my vote. All the best and goodluck.
Love Mia x

Julie Davis
over 4 years ago

Thank you for your dedication in helping others with this hideous disease. We pray every day for a miracle

sheggie sheggie
over 4 years ago

It is a pleasure to work with Shu and Derik! They are very dedicated and inspire all the people around them to work as hard as they do to find a cure for MND>

Keith Wright
over 4 years ago

Voting in the memory of Thomas Ohlson and in hope for Eric Valor.

Genet Genet
over 4 years ago

All the best...

Emski Emski
over 4 years ago

Shu does amazing work and should be the recipient of this award. I got to know Shu through my brother in-law Scott Sullivan when he was diagnosed with MND in 2010. Since then Shu has always remained close to our charity MND and ME and always worked tirelessly to find a cure for MND.

Shyuan Ngo
over 4 years ago

To all my family, friends, colleagues, and people in the MND community,
THANK YOU. Your support has been inspirational and I am grateful for every single vote. This campaign was more than a competition. It served as a platform to connect with people and to create new collaborations. Through this campaign, I have connected with people in Australia and abroad. My resolve to find solutions for those living with diseases of the ageing brain stays strong. I will be out tonight supporting a MND and ME Foundation fundraising event. If you are there, I will thank you in person. Otherwise, know that your support is greatly appreciated.

Rashedul Khan
over 4 years ago

What a great purpose! All the best!

Emma Beasley
over 4 years ago


Just writing my comment it somehow deleted (sorry!) You (and Derek) are an incredible inspiration and the work you do for MND is amazing. Dad is NEVER treated as a "research subject" but a "valued person". Dad's involvement in your research project has been a powerful coping mechanism for him, providing him with a opportunity for his body to contribute to finding what MND "is" and a possible cure. It provides him with integrity while his body continues to fail. Your commitment, passion and enthusiasm in finding a cure provides hope for patients, and their families. Thank you and all the best. Emma

Dianne O'Neill
over 4 years ago

Keep up you great work. I pray that every small new discovery will one day lead to a cure for this devastating disease.

John King
over 4 years ago

Well done and keep up the brilliant work. I think that you nominate for a Lord Mayor's Business Award. Here is a link:

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Shyuan was the winner of the 2016 Queensland Women in STEM prize. She is the Scott Sullivan Motor Neurone Disease Research Fellow at the Royal Brisbane & Women's Hospital and the University of Qu...