Bob has been a patron of Ataxia UK since 1991. As a human molecular geneticist who had worked on similar problems with cystic fibrosis, he was closely involved with starting Friedreich's ataxia research at St Mary's Hospital Medical School, University of London. 

With Sue Chamberlain, he set up the first group hunting for the Friedreich's ataxia gene in London in 1987, and located the gene to chromosome 9. In 1995 he moved to Melbourne, Australia to take charge of the Murdoch Institute, a research centre with over 600 staff devoted to studies of genetic disorders and child health. He has continued to work on Friedreich's ataxia in Melbourne.