GSK funding research into respiratory conditions
With recent world events having placed the spotlight on respiratory health like never before — from severe bushfires to COVID-19 — healthcare company GSK has committed $6.9 million to continue supporting the health of Australians through its 2020–21 Investigator Sponsored Studies (ISS) program.
Dr Andrew Weekes, Medical Director at GSK Australia, said the ISS program funds researcher-initiated studies that have the potential to impact medical science and address unmet patient needs, especially in areas like respiratory diseases.
“This program enables us to extend our collaboration with medical researchers and support them as they work to accelerate scientific progress,” Dr Weekes said.
“Australian researchers competed globally for the program funding and ultimately represented 8% of the funded respiratory projects. Once again Australia is punching above its weight — reflecting the calibre of the local medical research community and the potential benefit for patients around the world.”
The current program is supporting Australian research teams in their studies in respiratory medicine, vaccines and oncology with the aim of improving health outcomes for patients. The program sees GSK partnering with researchers from nine leading Australian institutions, including Griffith University, The University of Melbourne, The University of Newcastle and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.
For example, Professor Gerard Kaiko and his team at The University of Newcastle are exploring biomarkers in asthma. Prof Kaiko explained that not all patients with severe asthma respond to the same therapy, so a greater understanding of how patients respond to treatment will reduce the likelihood of high-risk patients experiencing worsening symptoms and exacerbations.
“Our team is aiming to improve patient outcomes by using revolutionary gene sequencing technology that allows us to investigate all the genes in each individual cell in the blood, rather than the blood as a mixture,” he said. “This will enable us to identify biomarkers that will help predict which patients might respond well to different treatments.”
Professor Sinthia Bosnic-Anticevich, from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and the University of Sydney, is meanwhile researching the impact of raising the rate of specialist referrals for patients at risk of severe asthma.
“Australians living with asthma may only visit their GP once a year to update their personal care plan, but frequently visit a pharmacist to receive their medication and check their administration technique,” she said.
“Our team is working with people living with asthma to understand their disease and referral history. Our findings will be used to produce a best practice guide to help pharmacists develop a well-defined and purposeful community referral pathway.”
Dr Weekes said Australian academic research in respiratory disease has repeatedly challenged global thinking at the level of the cell, the person and the community. This has led to better diagnostic tools, more management paradigms and therapeutics.
“Studies like these are outstanding examples of Australian innovation in practice; they challenge us all to do better in our approach to common respiratory conditions such as asthma,” he said.
“We’re proud to be supporting so many research teams that share our passion for improving the lives of Australians with respiratory illnesses.”
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