Brokenwood donates $25,000 to HMRI’s Multiple Sclerosis research

Mar 22 2023

Hunter Valley-based winery, Brokenwood, has donated $25,000 to Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research because of a personal connection to the disease.

Brokenwood CEO Geoff Krieger says, “Brokenwood decided to get involved donating to MS research at HMRI after three of our staff were diagnosed with MS.

“We chose to work with the researchers and scientists at HMRI as they’re not only local, they’re also globally recognised leaders in their field."

"We believe that by donating, we can assist the HMRI team to continue to work on ways to unlock the cause of MS and work towards a cure,” says Mr Krieger.

The funds will go towards research being conducted by Professor Jeannette Lechner-Scott, a specialist MS neurologist based at John Hunter Hospital and HMRI.

Professor Lechner-Scott is about to launch several clinical trials, including one that explores the effects of trans-magnetic stimulation of the brain (the TAURUS study) and a cross-disciplinary trial looking at neurometabolics (the effect of diet on the brain) in MS alongside Professor Tracey Burrows.

A further research focus is pregnancy in MS as most pregnant women with MS are of childbearing age. Together with IVF specialists, she is investigating if MS is affecting the chance to conceive and how MS and its treatment impact the pregnancy itself.

“The growth areas in MS research are around re-myelination of the nerves - essentially repairing the nerve damage caused by MS - as well as exploring the connection between glandular fever and the onset of MS.

“Donations like the one from Brokenwood really help bridge the funding gap. We depend on public funding from National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia (MSRA) to run projects.”

“This Brokenwood donation will help us retain our extremely skilled and knowledgeable staff. It will contribute towards helping us retain a post-doctoral researcher or in the recruitment of a PhD student. It’s such a useful and practical contribution to the work we’re doing,” says Professor Lechner-Scott.

One of Brokenwood’s employees who has been living with MS since her diagnosis in 2014 is Fraiah McDonald.

“Fraiah is part of the Brokenwood family and has been, believe it or not, for over a decade. As a young mum to two lovely daughters and living with MS, she is the embodiment of why we’re donating to MS and HMRI.  She deserves to live a long, healthy and happy life.” Says Mr Krieger.

When Fraiah found out that Brokenwood was going to donate $25,000 to HMRI’s MS Research, she says she felt very emotional.

“They have always made small donations and given bottles of wine to all sorts of community events, but this is the first time they’ve made a really large donation to one organisation. It’s going to make a huge impact and it’s going to be an ongoing thing,” says Ms McDonald.

While many employees hide their diagnosis from their employers, Fraiah says that Brokenwood has been incredibly supportive.

“Brokenwood has been incredible throughout the whole thing. They have helped make adjustments like setting me up at home with a computer and letting me do more admin work when I was working in the cellar door. I didn’t have the muscle control to reach over and pour a glass of wine at the time.”

“They’ve never held me back. I’ve done my forklift license, been a fire warden, done my first aid training and done three globally recognised wine qualifications. They’re so understanding. They want me to be well so if I need to finish early or work from home, they’re OK with that,” she explains.