Rare Daily Staff

An Australian couple who died in 2017, have left $6.9 million (Aus $10 million) to The Australian National University to advance research toward treating the rare autoimmune disease dermatomyositis, the largest bequest the university has ever received.  

The donation came from Jenny and Bruce Pryor, who first approached ANU with their intentions in April 2017.

The money will establish the Jenny and Bruce Pryor Research Fellowship at the ANU Centre for Personalised Immunology and will be used to research DM – which Jenny suffered from in her later years. DM is a rare autoimmune disease that causes chronic muscle inflammation, pain and weakness.

“Jenny suffered from DM in her later years and was diagnosed quite late in life. While the disease took its toll, Jenny always remained stoic. She never showed the significant impact it was taking,” said their nephew James Graham. “But both Jenny and Bruce wanted to make sure other people would not have to suffer like she had. They wanted to help empower researchers to find a cure for diseases like DM. Their incredible generosity and commitment means this hope is now possible.” 

Carola Vinuesa, co-director of the ANU Centre for Personalised Immunology, said the funding would unlock vital work that “will give sufferers new hope for a cure.” 
 
“DM is a rare disease that affects about one in 100,000 people and therefore not a prominent part of current large research programs,” she said. “This bequest changes everything. It will enable us to build the most comprehensive discovery program for DM in Australia and possibly the world.”
 

Matthew Cook, ANU professor and co-director of the Centre, said the severity of DM varies significantly among people depending on the organs affected, which include muscles, joints, lungs, esophagus, and heart. “Patients with DM often have other autoimmune diseases,” he said.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt thanked Jenny and Bruce and their family for empowering researchers to tackle complex autoimmune diseases and help sufferers. 
 
“People who they have never met, and will never meet, will benefit from the Pryors’ generosity and commitment to making a difference,” said Schmidt. 


Photo: Carola Vinuesa, co-director of the ANU Centre for Personalised Immunology

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