ACT MS Symposium 2021

ACT MS Symposium

This year's theme was Something Old, Something New. The Symposium was held online for the second time in its history, providing an excellent opportunity to hear from leading researchers across different areas of MS research.

Watch the recording

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ACT MS Symposium 2021 Opening

COVID-19 and MS

Our Health in Our Hands (OHIOH) Update

Future for MS Research in Australia

ACT MS Symposium 2021 Schedule

Session 1 9:30 am - 10:30 am

Facilitator: Vanessa Fanning

Community and Cognition

ACT MS Symposium 2021 Opening


Acknowledgement of Country

Symposium Opening   

Bec Duncan


ActiveBrain: Using physical activity to explore, understand, and optimise brain function

Ben Rattray and Joe Northey

Break 10:30 am - 11:00 am

30 minutes

Session 2 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Facilitator: Anne Brüstle

COVID-19 and MS


How vaccines work - David Tscharke

MS and COVID - Anneke Van Der Walt

Lunch Break 12:00-1:00 pm

60 minutes

Session 3 1:00pm - 2:30 pm

Facilitators: Jane Desborough and Katrina Chisholm

Our Health in Our Hands (OHIOH) Update


Healthcare Experiences in MS - Eluned Price

Objective visual field testing to assess MS severity and progression - Ted Maddess

Low Sun Exposure is a Risk Factor for Paediatric-Onset Multiple Sclerosis - Prince Sebastian

Update from the Health Experience Team (Adam Henschke, Anne Parkinson, Janet Drew)

Smartphone-based data collection and analysis to support home-based MS monitoring and management - Hanna Suominen

Break 2:30pm - 3:00 pm

30 minutes

Session 4 3:00pm - 4:00 pm

Facilitator: Jo Lane

Future for MS Research in Australia


MS research: what are the major challenges? - Bruce Taylor

ACT MS Cohort and Fatigue sub-study - Jo Lane

ACT MS Symposium 2021 Closing


Closing remarks

Rohan Greenland


Would you like to know more about our MS research?

Please vist the Our Health in Our Hands (OHIOH) at ANU website

We are also looking for people living with and without MS to participate in the ACT MS Cohort Study

Click here for the ACT MS Cohort Study flyer

We invite you to find out more by reading the ACT MS Cohort Study Participant Information Sheet and Consent Form

If you have any questions after reading the Participant Information Sheet, or would like to participate, please contact the Study Coordinator, Dr Jo Lane via or phone 02 6125 1485.

Please provide your contact details and the best times for the research team to call you (e.g., Monday and Wednesday after 12pm on my mobile #)


Speaker Bios

Dr Vanessa Fanning

Dr Vanessa Fanning

Vanessa was diagnosed with MS in 1998 having experienced symptoms starting some 20 years earlier. Vanessa was appointed to the International Progressive MS Alliance, a global Research collaboration, as an Ambassador and Implementation Planning Team Member in April 2019. Subsequently, in September 2020, she was appointed to the MS International Federation(MSIF) People with MS Advisory Committee (PMSAC). The MSIF comprises some 50 MS Organisations world-wide. Vanessa joined the ANU Our Health in our Hands MS Health Experience Team in October 2018. Vanessa’s involvement in the MS community includes membership of the MSL’s Community Engagement Council for the ACT and regional NSW; being the convenor of a meditation group and a peer support group and participating in fundraising for MS Research Australia (MSRA).

Bec Duncan

Bec DucanBorn and raised in Forbes, NSW, Bec moved to Canberra to attend the ANU in 1998. Graduating in 2002, Bec practised law before joining the Australian Public Service in 2006. Over the last 15 years, Bec has worked on a range of legal and policy issues in employment and workplace relations matters and now represents the Australian Government at the International Labour Organization, the United Nations labour agency. In 2010, Bec moved to Yass with her husband, and three daughters, aged 11, 9 and 6 years. Bec was diagnosed with MS in January 2019 at the age of 39, and is a member of the ACT MS Community Engagement Council (MSCEC).

Dr Ben Rattray

Dr Ben RattrayBen Rattray is an Associate Professor at the University of Canberra (UC) working with the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise (UCRISE). He teaches across several Exercise Physiology related units at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.  Since starting at UC in 2009, Ben has shifted his focus towards understanding interactions between human movement and the brain, seeking to optimise health and performance. Ben’s research seeks to understand how exercise can impact cognition and how the brain contributes to fatigue in both acute and chronic settings. His work utilises approaches including perceptual and performance outcomes alongside cerebrovascular physiology, electroencephalography and structural MRI. This work has been applied in a range of contexts including military, occupational, health and high-performance sport settings. Ben now heads the Active Brain research theme within UCRISE. View profile

Dr Joe Northey

Dr Joe NortheyJoe Northey is an Early Career Researcher and Assistant Professor at the University of Canberra where he teaches exercise physiology and lifespan development units as well as providing expert lectures and content in areas of expertise around physical activity and neurocognitive function. Joe’s research, which is run out of the Active Brain Lab within the UC Research Institute for Sport and Exercise, focuses on understanding the role of physical activity in neurocognitive function, particularly investigating exercise dose. As part of this lab his research utilises a range of techniques including Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound to understand the cerebrovascular and neurobiological mechanisms of exercise induced cognitive changes. Joe works in a range of populations including ageing, cancer, childhood mental health, military and high-performance sport. View profile

Associate Professor Anne Brüstle

A/Prof Anne BrustleAnne Brüstle is Associate Professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease at The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University in Canberra.

Her work centres around the autoimmune, neurodegenerative condition multiple sclerosis (MS). Her group investigates key immune populations driving the pathogenesis of MS, such as the Il-17 producing Th17 cells, using laboratory model systems to understand the underlying biological principals. In collaboration with diverse industrial partners her group further evaluates potential new targets for conceptually novel MS treatments and deciphers their biological mechanisms in neuroinflammation. Dr Brüstle leads the MS research of “Our Health in Our Hands” a large multidisciplinary project aiming to improve MS activity monitoring and treatment utilising personalised approaches. In 2018, she was named ACT Young Tall Poppy for her research efforts and engagement with the local MS community.

Anne completed her PhD in Human Biology 2008 at the Institute of Medical Microbiology, Philipps-University in Marburg, Germany. After being a post doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, Canada she was recruited to ANU in mid 2014.

Professor David Tscharke

Professor David TscharkeDavid Tscharke is a virologist and immunologist who lives with MS. His main interests are herpesviruses, which are a large family of viruses that cause diseases like cold sores, chickenpox/shingles and glandular fever. He is also interested in anti-viral T cells and how they recognise and kill virus-infected cells. Most recently he has become interested in opportunistic infections associated with MS treatments. He is originally from Adelaide, but has worked at the University of Oxford, the US National Institutes of Health, and QIMR in Brisbane. Since 2006 he has been at The Australian National University (ANU) and has had several positions with varying responsibility for research and teaching. He currently Head of the Division of Immunity, Inflammation and Infection at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU.

Dr Anne Parkinson

Dr Anne ParkinsonAnne Parkinson is a sociologist and health services researcher working at ANU since mid-2012. She is a member of the Health Experience Team arm of the Our Health in Our Hands (OHIOH) program, an inter-disciplinary project that aims to improve disease detection, monitoring and decision making through the use of personalised medicine approaches. The Health Experience Team works to embed the experiences, perspectives and preferences of people living with MS in every aspect of the research from beginning to end.


Associate Professor Anneke van der Walt

A/Prof Anneke van der WaltAnneke van der Walt is an academic Neurologist with subspecialty training in multiple sclerosis and neuroimmunology as well as neuro-ophthalmology. She leads the MS and Neuro-ophthalmology Research Group at the Central Clinical School, Monash University, Australia.  She completed her undergraduate training in South Africa before relocating to Australia where she completed specialist training in Neurology and a PhD in Neuroscience under supervision of Professors Trevor Kilpatrick and Helmut Butzkueven at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include cerebellar dysfunction in MS, and MS cognition, and women's health. She leads several large national and international studies on digital biomarkers in MS. Associate Professor van der Walt is the Chief Operating Officer of the MSBase foundation. Her clinical roles includes appointments as the Director,  MSNI Unit and Neuro-ophthalmology Service at Alfred Health, Melbourne.

Dr Jane Desborough

Dr Jane DesboroughJane Desborough (DAppScNursing; GDipMid; MPH, PhD) is a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Health Services Research and Policy, Research School of Population Health, Australian National University. Jane is a mixed methods researcher, who works closely with patients, clinicians and policy makers to conduct research that is not only responsive to their needs and preferences but aims to target quality and outcomes improvement. Jane leads the Our Health In Our Hands (OHIOH) Health Experience TeamThis team is comprised of more than 20 researchers, more than half of whom are living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or Type 1 Diabetes(T1D). Its aim is to embed the experiences and perspectives of people living with MS and T1D into the project from inception to implementation.

Eluned Price

Eluned PriceEluned Price is a senior medical student at the Australian National University. She initially completed a Bachelor of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Wollongong, before moving to Canberra to pursue postgraduate medicine. For the past ten months, Eluned has been placed in Bega, undergoing a variety of medical, surgical and general practice rotations. Her clinical interests including neurology, acute care and rural medicine. Over the past two years, Eluned has worked under the supervision and guidance of Dr Jo Lane and Professor Robyn Lucas on a qualitative study examining the primary health care experiences of people living with MS, as well as that of health care professionals working in this area. In future, Eluned would like to continue research into identifying challenges for those living with MS, and ways to improve their quality of life

Professor Ted Maddess

Professor Ted MaddessTed Maddess works on developing new methods for testing the eyes and visual brain. MS affects the visual nervous system in a patchy way. This means that spatially adjacent parts of our visual fields may show more or less damage than neighbouring parts, which can provide detailed information on disease severity and progression. Traditional functional methods measure the average conduction delay across the whole visual field, which can mask informative patchy changes.  For the past 30 years Prof Maddess, his group and allied companies have been developing objective means of assessing many parts of the visual field at the same time, so-called multifocal methods. Originally they examined electrical recording of brain activity in response to multifocal stimuli. More recently they have developed non-contact methods that use video recordings of the pupils to record brain function. These provide neural delays for between 12 and 44 regions of the two eyes in less than 90 seconds. These reflect damage to the optic nerves and radiations. No history of optic neuritis is required.

Prince Sebastian

Prince SebastianPrince Sebastian is a third year Doctor of Medicine and Surgery (MChD) student at the Australian National University (ANU). In 2018, he completed a Bachelor of Philosophy (PhB), Science degree at the ANU. His honours project investigated the role of central tolerance in cellular immunity against viruses in mice. He undertook a medical school research project under the supervision of Professor Robyn Lucas on the association between sun exposure and paediatric-onset multiple sclerosis.


Assistant Professor Adam Henschke

Adam HenschkeAdam Henschke's (Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences Utwente University, The Netherlandsresearch) research stems from fundamental interests in ethics, society and interactions with novel and emerging technologies. Adam is an applied ethicist, working on areas that cross over between ethics, technology, health and security. He is also interested in moral psychology, experimental philosophy and their relations to decision making and policy development.

Health Experience Team

Associate Professor Hanna Suominen

A/Prof Hanna SuominenHanna Suominen (MSc, PhD, Docent, MEdL, SFHEA) is at the forefront of accelerating health impact from precision medicine technology, through the application of advanced analytics and Machine Learning. She is the Associate Director (Engagement & Impact) of the ANU School of Computing and Big Data Program Leader of Our Health in Our Hands (OHIOH), the inaugural ANU Grand Challenge Program. She previously worked for Data61 of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the National Information and Communications Technology Australia (NICTA) as the Team Leader of the Theory and Applications in Multimodal Pattern Analysis (TAMPA) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), respectively. A/Prof Hanna Suominen has almost 20 years’ experience of working at the interface between technology, education, and health sciences.

Professor Bruce Taylor

Bruce TaylorBruce Taylor is a medical graduate of the University of Tasmania, and completed neurology training in Perth Western Australia before completing fellowship training at the Mayo Clinic Rochester Minnesota.  He currently has a personal chair at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research University of Tasmania and a conjoint appointment with the Royal Hobart Hospital. He holds a NHMRC investigator grant L2. He is the academic lead of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, MS Research Flagship. He has been undertaking MS research for more than 25 years.His main areas of research interest are eliciting the factors; personal, environmental, and genetic that are associated with the onset and progression of multiple sclerosis.

Katrina Chisholm

Katrina ChisholmKatrina's background is in Health, working in hospitals in Victoria, then with the Health Department of WA, as Principal Medical Record Administrator, responsible for medical record services  in 76 hospitals around WA, developing a standardised medical record. Katrina spent 6 years in Hong Kong, developing a standardised medical record, which then evolved into an electronic medical record utilising HK ID number as the standard identifier for all  hospital patients. She moved to Canberra in 2000 to work for the Department of Health and I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 2003, then diagnosed with Acute Transverse Myelitis in 2011, another neurological condition that is similar to MS. This resulted in her having to use a wheelchair.  Katrina has been involved in the OHIOH project since 2018, starting as a CI for a MS Research Australia Incubator Grant and am currently chairing the ACT MS Community Engagement Council.

Dr Jo Lane

Dr Jo LaneJo is a research fellow and clinical and cognitive psychologist at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Research School of Population Health, at the Australian National University. She was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology) in 2018 from the Australian National University and has been a practicing psychologist since 2016 specialising in treating post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders and veterans. Since January 2019, Dr Lane has been working with a multidisciplinary team of researchers across the Australian National University on the Our Health in Our Hands Project that aims to transform healthcare by developing new personalised health technologies and solutions in collaboration with people living with multiple sclerosis (MS), clinicians and health care providers. Dr Lane’s interests intersect across psychology, epidemiology, translational research and personalised medicine in MS.

Rohan Greenland

Rohan Greenland joined MS Australia as the CEO in December 2020, having been CEO at Palliative Care Australia and, prior to that, General Manager of Advocacy at the National Heart Foundation of Australia. He was also a long-serving Director of Public Affairs at the Australian Medical Association and has spent seven years working as an adviser, media adviser and chief-of-staff to federal and ACT politicians and ministers. He has been involved in advocacy and policy for much of his working career, especially for prevention and management of chronic disease. He served on the executive of the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance. He was a senior vice-president of the Public Health Association of Australia and served on the World Heart Federation’s expert advocacy group. He has also served as a Board member of the Health Promotion Foundation of the ACT, the ACT Cancer Council and Focus ACT, a non-profit provider of supported accommodation for people with physical and intellectual disability. He now serves on the executive committee of the International MS Progressive Alliance and the CEO advisory group of the MS International Federation.

Janet Drew

Janet DrewJanet Drew is a person with MS, a peer-support volunteer, and a member of the ACT MS Community Engagement Council. She is also a member of the Our Health In Our Hands (OHIOH) Health Experience Team. Janet has over 20 years of experience working in the information technology sector.