Philanthropic support drives forward dementia research

Philanthropic support drives forward dementia research

Illuminate newsletter header, Summer 21/22
December 2021

Professor Melanie Bahlo
Professor Melanie Bahlo is leading a multidiscliplinary
team at WEHI who are investigating genetics-based diagnostics
for dementia. 

Dementia is not a single disease, but rather a term that refers to a group of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. As our life expectancy increases, we are seeing an increase in people living with dementia. 

People with dementia typically find it difficult to get an accurate diagnosis, which impacts their treatment. 

Healthy Ageing and Development Theme Leader Professor Melanie Bahlo said a multidisciplinary and collaborative team at WEHI was developing genetics-based diagnostics for people with dementia, with the aim of more accurate diagnosis and – in the long run – personalised treatment options. 

“Dementia research in the past has been dismissive of genetics. The argument was that, with no therapies available to patients, there was no point in knowing about the genetics. It made obtaining funding for this project really difficult,” she said. 

This year, the Alfred Felton Bequest awarded the multidisciplinary research collaboration a $1 million flagship grant. The four-year funding will support Professor Bahlo’s research team to perform whole genome sequencing on 500 Victorians with dementia, and – in collaboration with other dementia researchers and projects at WEHI – determine the genetic basis of dementia. 

Sir Andrew Grimwade, The Felton Bequest’s Chairman, is a passionate advocate for WEHI, of which he was a long-serving Board President. 

“The Felton Bequest believes that ageing is currently one of the greatest challenges facing medical science. We would welcome any other donors interested to join with us in supporting this exciting WEHI project,” Sir Andrew said. 

Professor Bahlo said while advances were being made into the environmental causes that contribute to dementia, it was becoming vitally important that we begin to determine the patients’ specific genetic causes. 

“We have an opportunity here to change the landscape and the thinking around dementia research and that would not be possible without this generous philanthropic donation from the Alfred Felton Bequest,” she said. 

To donate to WEHI, visit or phone 03 9345 2403

Super Content: 
Microscopic image of a neuron

Our scientists are working to improve the detection of neurodegenerative conditions that cause dementia.