Australian medical research community leads innovation for patients affected by respiratory conditions

Mar 17 2021

World events have placed the spotlight on respiratory health like never before. From severe bushfires to COVID-19, Australians living with respiratory conditions continue to face new health pressures.

Through the 2020/21 Investigator Sponsored Studies (ISS) program, GSK has committed a record of $6.9 million to continue supporting the health of Australians. More than 14 Australian research teams will be conducting studies in respiratory medicine, vaccines and oncology with the aim of improving health outcomes for patients.

Dr Andrew Weekes, Medical Director at GSK Australia, says that 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.

“These projects are entirely designed and managed by independent Australian research teams. This program enables us to extend our collaboration with medical researchers and support them as they work to accelerate scientific progress,” says Dr Weekes.

“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.”

“We’re proud to be supporting so many research teams that share our passion for improving the lives of Australians with respiratory illnesses,” says Dr Weekes.

The current program sees GSK partnering with researchers from nine leading Australian institutions, including Griffith University, University of Melbourne, University of Newcastle and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.

Dr Gerard Kaiko says the support provided by the GSK ISS program will help to propel research towards furthering precision medicine.

"Unfortunately, not all patients with severe asthma respond to the same therapy. 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. This will enable us to identify biomarkers that will help predict which patients might respond well to different treatments."

Dr Weekes says 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 Dr Kaiko’s are outstanding examples of Australian innovation in practice; they challenge us all to do better in our approach to common respiratory conditions,” says Dr Weekes.