Professor Peter Wark

Equipment Grant
2017 Equipment Grant
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Fellowship
2017 Fellowship
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2015 Project Grant
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2014 Project Grant
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2014 Project Grant
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2013 Project Grant
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2013 Project Grant
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2012 Project Grant
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2011 Project Grant
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2010 Project Grant
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2010 Project Grant
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2008 Project Grant
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2008 Project Grant
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2006 Project Grant
HMRI Award for Early Career Research
2005 HMRI Award for Early Career Research

What are your research interests?

  1. Viral respiratory tract infections and factors that make the patient susceptible to them. I have a particular interest in the role of rhinovirus, influenza and other common respiratory viruses and how they effect the human host and their immune response. My group has developed expertise in identifying respiratory viruses in airway secretions and developing an in-vitro cell culture model of infection.
  2. The role of the airway epithelium in innate immunity and inflammation in the context of asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis. My group has developed expertise an in-vitro cell culture model of the airway epithelium with primary cells grown at the air liquid interface (ALI). 
  3. The role of airway inflammation in asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis with a specific interest in determining different inflammatory phenotypes (subgroups) in these diseases and how this may influence treatment.
  4. Assessment, characterisation and management of difficult airways disease. This includes severe asthma, but I am interested in extending this approach to COPD and bronchiectasis as well.  
  5. How host immunity influences responses and susceptibility to respiratory virus infection. We have studied this in the context of pregnancy, asthma, COPD and now cystic fibrosis.

Why did you get into research?

I have always wanted to understand the mechanisms behind what happens in disease and why. Through this appreciation I want to be able to lead to changes that will matter for improving health.

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

I would love to solve the problem as to why people with asthma and COPD are susceptible to the effects of virus infection and correct this. I also want to find a way of predicting who with cystic fibrosis will lose lung function and prevent this from happening. 

Biography

Professor Peter Wark is a senior staff specialist in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at John Hunter Hospital, and a conjoint Professor with the University of Newcastle. In addition, he is Co-Director of the priority research centre for asthma and respiratory disease at the University of Newcastle and a member of the Vaccines Immunology Viruses and Asthma (VIVA) research group at HMRI. 

Professor Wark was among the first to demonstrate that viral infection was the most common trigger for acute severe asthma in adults and showed that there was a direct link between viral infection and more severe acute disease. He then demonstrated that bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics had a deficient innate immune response to infection with rhinovirus (the common cold) with reduced release of a key immune response molecule, interferon (IFN)-β. The seminal finding that asthma can be associated with impaired interferon responses to rhinovirus has led to an international randomised controlled trial of the effect of nebulised IFN-β on acute asthma.

More recently, Professor Wark has established a direct link between uncontrolled allergic inflammation and impaired antiviral responses in asthma. He has led a team that established an important role of innate epithelial cell responses to influenza and shown this to be impaired in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In addition, he has been part of a team that has investigated the mechanisms behind the susceptibility of pregnant women to influenza and other viral infections and determined that a placental derived protein is responsible for impaired immune responses and exaggerated inflammatory responses. Finally, Professor Wark is currently investigating whether an inflammatory gene signature can be found in patients with cystic fibrosis that will predict loss of lung function.  

Future Focus

My ultimate aim is to determine why patients with asthma and COPD are susceptible to infection with respiratory viruses and then find ways that will reverse this. Respiratory viruses are the most common reason for acute attacks of asthma and COPD from young children to the elderly. These acute attacks are responsible for considerable morbidity, may result in hospitalisation and even death.   

Specialised/Technical Skills

  • Clinical characterisation of patients with asthma, COPD and bronchiectasis - This is with a special emphasis on the role of phenotyping based on airway inflammatory patterns.
  • Expertise in identifying respiratory viruses in airway secretions and developing an in-vitro cell culture model of infection.
  • Expertise an in-vitro cell culture model of the airway epithelium with primary cells grown at the air liquid interface (ALI).

Affiliations

2017

Fellowship - Inflammatory Mechanisms of Airways disease
Fellowship
Description:

Post Doctoral Fellow (1.0FTE) + Research Assistant (0.5FTE)

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Precision medicine in Cystic Fibrosis: A personalised test to target individual mutations to specific CFTR modulators
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Gerard Kaiko, Peter Wark

Description:

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is the most common life threatening genetic condition in Australia and affects many organs, including the lungs, pancreas, and the gastrointestinal tract. Although improved treatments have seen life expectancy significantly extended, the average life expectancy of a CF patient in Australia is still only 38. Therefore, there is an urgent need for new therapies tailored to individual CF patient mutations.

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Mechanisms of inflammatory airways disease
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MRSP Equipment Grant
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Description:

Ussing chamber apparatus to measure barrier ion flux/permeability across multiple tissues in vitro. This includes 4xUSS5SD and USS4SD USSING SYSTEM W/DRAIN, with the EVC4000-4 PRECISION V/I CLAMP 4 CHANNEL voltage/current clamp, 505063 Circulating Water Bath 13L 230V 50HZ, and LAB-TRAX-4 DATA ACQUISITION SYS 4 CHANNEL.

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2015

Inflammatory Mechanisms of Airways disease - Post Doctoral Fellow (1.0FTE) + Research Assistant (0.5FTE)
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2014

Inflammatory Mechanisms of Airways disease
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Researchers:
Predicting who is at risk of worsening lung disease in Cystic Fibrosis
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Description:

An acute exacerbation (also known as infection) is a critical event for a CF patient.  

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2013

Inflammatory Mechanisms of Airways disease - Post Doctoral Fellow (1.0FTE) + Research Assistant (0.5FTE)
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Immunosenescence in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease leads to abnormal innate immune responses to human rhinovirus infection
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Description:

Immunological aging in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

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Protecting Pregnant Women from Death during influenza epidemics
Project Grant
Description:

Pregnant women are much more susceptible to viral infections.

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2012

Inflammatory Mechanisms of Airways disease - Post Doctoral Fellow (1.0FTE) + Research Assistant (0.5FTE)
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2011

Development of novel therapeutic approaches for rhinovirus-induced asthma exacerbation
Project Grant

2010

Inflammatory Mechanisms of Airways disease - Post Doctoral Fellow (1.0FTE) + Research Assistant (0.5FTE)
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Researchers:
Identifying novel biomarkers of oxidative stress in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
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2008

Inflammatory Mechanisms of Airways disease - Post Doctoral Fellow (1.0FTE) + Research Assistant (0.5FTE)
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AXAD Project
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2006

The interaction between airway epithelial cells infected with rhinovirus and lymphocytes from subjects with COPD
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2005

Award for Early Career Research - Peter Wark
HMRI Award for Early Career Research
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