News / 3 November 2016
Toby Merson

The latest addition to the ARMI family is Toby Merson. He and his team joined the Institute in early October and will principally be involved in research that may further our understanding of multiple sclerosis.

In his spare time, Toby loves spending time in the great outdoors. One of his keen interests is working on his bush block, removing exotic weeds and reintroducing Australian native plants.

Every month or so, Toby heads up to his 20-acre bush block where he works to restore the property to its native habitat. He is also establishing a small native garden on the property. When asked if he had a favourite native species, Merson said:

“I wouldn’t say I had a favourite, but I am always on the lookout for anything rare or unusual.”

For someone who’s research relies so heavily on technology, he is quite happy to leave it all behind to drive to his off-grid property in Happy Valley, South West of Ballarat. One of the attractions is to help preserve what remains of Victoria’s native habitats. The benefit of reintroducing local native plants is that they are perfectly adapted to the local climate. This is ideal for someone who is busy heading up a research group at ARMI and can only get away every few weeks.

Toby’s appointment

Dr Merson’s appointment as group leader comes with a fair amount of anticipation. He brings a unique expertise and knowledge in developmental and regenerative neurobiology that will blend extremely well with most of the ARMI research groups.

Toby comes to ARMI with an appealing resume. After completing his PhD at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Toby undertook post-doctoral training at the Howard Florey Institute and established an independent laboratory within the Florey Institute of Neurosciences and Mental Health. He was recently awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship.

When asked about Toby’s selection, this is what renowned MS researcher, Claude Bernard, had to say.

“The opportunity of having Toby and his group at ARMI will contribute significantly towards the dynamic research environment upon which ARMI has now established its reputation. Toby has published a number of authoritative peer-reviewed research articles on Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and is an emerging leader in the field of MS research.”

ARMI and Multiple Sclerosis

Toby is excited about coming to ARMI, citing he was “drawn by the can-do attitude that the Institute possesses, the cutting-edge research infrastructure, and positive research culture that embraces excellence” He is enthusiastic about throwing himself into the work alongside his new ARMI colleagues.

With his group, Toby will be studying myelin, which insulates the axons of nerve cells in the body.

They want to increase their understanding of how myelin is generated during development, how it is maintained over time and regenerated after injury.

A major goal of the group is to develop ways to promote myelin repair in diseases like multiple sclerosis.

It’s a rapidly evolving field of neuroscience - new theories on the function of myelin in driving brain plasticity are emerging, and new technologies are transforming the research toolkit. Toby aims to utilise these technological advances to build upon the methodologies and approaches of the past to answer fundamental questions for the field.

We wish him the best of luck with his endeavours and warmly welcome him to the ARMI family.