Prof Alan Mackay-Sim initiated the original stem cell pilot study in 2007, the first HSP research in Australia aimed at finding a treatment for HSP. Alan had been approached by the inaugural President of the Foundation, the late Robin Bligh, seeking a promising approach to discovering an effective treatment because so little was being done for people with this relatively unknown disease. Success in this pilot study led to Alan taking on the role of Co-Principal Investigator of the HSP Research Program that was undertaken at the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research at Griffith University in Brisbane.
Alan has overseen the success and progress achieved in the HSP Research Program ever since and continues to provide the scientific leadership and oversight that has the program on the cusp of clinical trials, based on world-leading discoveries about the impairment to nerve cells in the brain caused by HSP and drug treatments with the potential to stop that impairment.
Alan was made a Member of the Order of Australia in June 2021 in recognition of his services to tertiary education and biomedical research. He was named Australian of the Year in 2017 acknowledging his status as the world leader in nasal stem cells and their application in medical science and being honoured for his groundbreaking scientific work on their use in treating spinal cord injury.