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WA Australian of the Year 2010

Tuesday, 01 December 2009


Alzheimer’s disease researcher Professor Ralph Martins was named Western Australia’s Australian of the Year 2010 and presented with his award by the Governor of Western Australia, His Excellency Dr Ken Michael AC.

Professor Ralph Martins is recognised as a world leader of research into Alzheimer’s disease. Since the disease’s discovery in 1906, little research work was done until Professor Martins teamed up with Professor Colin Masters and a team of German scientists. They made the first significant discovery showing that the beta amyloid protein that coats the brain is the foundation of Alzheimer’s disease. Later Professor Martins made the critical discovery that the Alzheimer’s brain is under oxidative stress. He has now been instrumental in bringing to Perth new technology that makes it possible to determine if a patient has deposits of the toxic beta amyloid, and therefore allow early treatment before the brain has been irreparably damaged. Perth is one of only two cities in Australia with this capability. As Director of Centre of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care, Research Director of the Sir James McCusker Unit for Alzheimer’s Disease Research for over 20 years, and Inaugural Chair for Ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease at Edith Cowan University, Professor Martins is working to develop an early diagnostic blood test. Prof. Martins team in collaboration with researchers in Melbourne is undertaking the largest study of its kind in the world, to develop this early blood test to identify the role of life style factors which affect Alzheimer’s disease. 
Prof. Martins is of Indian background and his parents were from Goa, India. Although now settled in Australia, he has maintained ties with India. Currently Prof. Martins is collaborating with Dr. Jacob Roy who is the President and Founder of Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI). In 1992 Dr. Roy founded “Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India”, a registered national, voluntary organization dedicated to the Care, Support, and Research of Dementia, and is the first Afro Asian Alzheimer’s Association to get full membership in “Alzheimer’s Disease International”. ARDSI now has 14 chapters across India. ARDSI is involved in running Memory Clinic, Day Care, Home Care, Respite Care, Training and Research in several centres in India.
Prof. Martins is also working closely with Indian researchers based at National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bangalore, National Brain Research Centre, Manesar, Gurgaon and Dr. Benny Antony of Arjuna Natural Extracts Ltd, based in Kerala with whom clinical trials will begin shortly in Australia to evaluate a novel formulation of the Indian herbal extract curcumin.
Prof. Martins moved to Perth at 16 years of age and graduated from University of Western Australia with a PhD in 1986. In 1987 he won a scholarship to Heidelberg University to work with Konrad Beyreuther. Now he shares Australia’s breakthrough research on Alzheimer’s disease with his collaborators in India. 


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