$1 million gift for asthma research

$1 million gift for asthma research

Illuminate newsletter index page, March 2020
March 2020


Dr Christine Keenan (pictured) is leading the research
program with Associate Professor Rhys Allan into potential
new treatments for asthma.

Vital research to tackle asthma has been given a boost of $1 million from the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation.

Asthma is the most common chronic lung disease worldwide, affecting more than 300 million people. The disease is debilitating, life-threatening, rising in incidence and currently without a cure.

In Australia one in nine people have asthma – one of the highest rates of asthma in the world – with almost 400 Australians dying from the disease each year. New treatment strategies are urgently needed.

Current medicines not cutting it

Unfortunately, little progress has been made in understanding the causes of asthma or improving treatments since the 1970s, when steroids and Ventolin became standard therapy.

Current medicines ease the symptoms of asthma but don’t treat the cause of the disease which is driven by overactivity in the immune system. A fundamental understanding of how the immune system is deregulated during an asthmatic reaction is essential for developing effective new treatment approaches.

A collaborative approach

The $1 million gift will support a multidisciplinary asthma research program led by Institute asthma researchers Associate Professor Rhys Allan and Dr Christine Keenan.

Associate Professor Allan said his laboratory had a longstanding interest in understanding how allergic immune reactions developed.

“We are perfectly positioned to draw upon the expertise around us at the Institute which has been world leading in the field of immunology for the past 75 years.

“Our collaborative efforts have already uncovered a potential new treatment strategy for asthma that targets the cause of the disease and, with this new funding, we can now pursue things further."

“The generous support from the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation will enable us to progress a program of research collaboration that brings together Institute experts in immune cell imaging, such as Dr Joanna Groom, as well as experts in chemical biology, bioinformatics, and drug screening to develop new approaches to the treatment of asthma,” he said.

New treatment strategy

The funding will also enable the researchers to test the treatment strategy in patient samples, and in models of steroid-resistant asthma.

Associate Professor Allan said the funding had come at a critical time as part of the project moved into the preclinical phase.

“Excitingly, this funding will also support our novel, multidimensional discovery program to continue to identify new targets for disease treatment,” he said.

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