HomeNewsAustralia'Changed millions of lives': Tributes flow for Perth neuroscientist Byron Kakulas

‘Changed millions of lives’: Tributes flow for Perth neuroscientist Byron Kakulas

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Tributes are flowing for neuroscientist, Professor Byron Kakulas, from City Beach in Perth, Western Australia who recently passed away aged 90.

Professor Kakulas was the founding director of the Perron Institute (previously the Australian Neuromuscular Research Institute) in 1982 and a ground breaker in the field of muscular dystrophy research.

After graduating in medicine from the University of Adelaide in 1956 and completing his residency training at Royal Perth Hospital where he specialised in clinical neurology, Professor Kakulas became interested in research.

Professor Kakulas gained a second specialist qualification in pathology, breaking new ground in the area of research by discovering a paralytic disease in a small marsupial, the Rottnest Island Quokka, which would become the focus of his doctoral thesis.

Byron Kaklulas. Photo: Perron Institute

This breakthrough demonstrated the potential for all muscle diseases, including muscular dystrophy, to be curable. According to the Perron Institute, this discovery also opened the gateway to worldwide research in the field and a treatment for sufferers of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Professor Kakulas also received many honours and awards including Officer of the Order of Australia, an Honorary Doctorate of the University of Athens, the Gaetano Conte Prize of the Naples Conte Academy, a Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Federation of Neurology, and a Paul Harris Fellow in Rotary.

In a statement following Professor Kakulas’ death, Perron Institute Board Chairman Rob McKenzie called him “a leader who changed the landscape of neurology and neuroscience in Western Australia and influenced the direction of international research.”

“His legacy of advancements in the neurosciences field endures and the example he has set for young researchers in the importance of keeping an open, inquiring mind and being prepared to persist will continue to encourage and inspire,” Mr McKenzie added.

Lord Mayor of Perth, Basil Zempilas, also paid tribute to the Professor in The West and called him his hero.

“As a younger man, a group of high achievers I called my ‘Kazzi’ heroes made a huge impression [on me]. They originated from the tiny Greek island of Kastellorizo and in this new land they had forged careers of enormous distinction which served as huge inspiration. One of those heroes was Professor Byron Kakulas,” Mayor Zempilas said.

“A brilliant man, a giant of the medical world and a gentleman, he was a regular on Telethon and he was one of a kind.”

In a statement, Muscular Dystrophy WA also paid tribute to Professor Kakulas on Facebook and said he “changed millions of lives across the globe.”

The Funeral Service for Professor Byron Kakulas will be held in Greek Orthodox Cathedral St Constantine and Helene, Parker St, Northbridge commencing on Friday, January 27 at 9.30am. The Burial Service will be held at Karrakatta at 12pm.

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