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Asthma duo honoured with European awards

Jun 13 2018

Professor Jodie Simpson

Hunter asthma researchers Professors Peter Gibson and Jodie Simpson have scooped two of the European Respiratory Society’s (ERS) most prestigious awards.

Professor Gibson, a respiratory physician at John Hunter Hospital and University of Newcastle (UON) conjoint, is the 2018 recipient of the ERS Gold Medal, recognising excellence in the field of asthma research. A €50,000 ($A77,000) grant accompanies the medal.

Professor Simpson is being honoured with the ERS’s Romain Pauwels Research Award, which also attracts €50,000 in funding. The grant acknowledges excellence in previous achievements in clinical research on airway diseases, aiming to support a new generation of lung scientists in their quest to understand and treat respiratory illnesses.

“These are outstanding achievements for Peter and Jodie, as well as the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and HMRI,” Professor Vanessa McDonald, co-Director of the NHMRC Centre of Excellence in Severe Asthma and deputy director of the UON’s Priority Research Centre for Healthy Lungs, said.

“It’s a fantastic outcome for our community and reflects our vision to be world leaders in the development and implementation of new treatment approaches for people who live with a chronic lung disease.”

Along with his research team, Professor Gibson is working on multiple projects to improve and personalise the management of severe asthma. Results of his recent AMAZES study, published in international journal The Lancet, showed asthma attacks were reduced by 40% with a low daily dosage of the macrolide antibiotic Azithromycin.

His work was also instrumental in having another drug, Mepolizumab, listed on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme after targeted clinical trials proved its worth in a sub-group of patients. It was purpose-built to block a protein causing inflammation in eosinophilic asthma.

Professor Simpson, co-leader on AMAZES, has carved an international niche by focusing on airway inflammation caused by neutrophils, which are white blood cells that fight infection.

She now leads a research program investigating airway infection, inflammation and treatment of severe asthma and COPD and her paradigm-shifting work has greatly advanced the phenotyping of airways disease and overhauled the way asthma is clinically described.

 “It is a great honour to be recognised by a prestigious European society for my work as a lung disease scientist,” Professor Simpson said. “These funds will allow me to continue to develop my work into the mechanisms and treatment of airway inflammation in asthma and COPD.”

Professors Gibson and Simpson will receive their respective awards during the ERS International Congress in Paris on September 18.

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.