Around the universities and research institutes

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja18.0406C1
Published online: 4 June 2018

Dr Phillipp de Cros, an infectious diseases specialist at the Burnet Institute, has been awarded the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ International Medal for 2018, for his work in tuberculosis research and clinical service. The RACP Medal recognises a member who has provided outstanding service in developing countries, in particular, for people in crisis. The winner must have made a significant and sustained contribution to clinical service; played a leading role in promotion, collaboration and advocacy; and demonstrated a proven commitment to mentoring, education and training. Dr du Cros was nominated primarily for his work to implement multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) programs for independent medical humanitarian organisation Medécins sans Frontières (MSF) in Africa, the former Soviet Union and Asia over more than 10 years. The award also recognises his former role as head of MSF’s UK-based team of medical specialists, the Manson Unit, his mentoring of staff for outbreak response, development of a diploma course in tropical medicine and hygiene, and work to facilitate operational research. Dr du Cros commenced at Burnet Institute in October 2017, joining the TB Elimination and Implementation Science Working Group, focusing on the Asia-Pacific Region, in particular countries with large TB epidemics such as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Two researchers from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre have won Victorian Premier’s awards. Dr Gabrielle Haeusler won the Health Services Researcher category for her work improving research and care of febrile neutropenia in childhood cancer patients. Febrile neutropenia (FN) is the most common complication of childhood cancer treatment. In Australia, hospitals do not have low-risk FN programs which would enable children at low risk of infection to be safely managed at home, improving quality of life and reducing health care costs. Dr Haeusler’s PhD aimed to standardise the way paediatric FN research is conducted across the world, understand how FN in children is managed in Australia and to test how children with low-risk FN can be better identified in Victoria. As a result international experts agreed on a list of core research outcomes and definitions to standardise FN research and ensure relevant results for medical staff and patients across the globe. Research results are being implemented at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital to reduce hospital admissions by up to 4 days in children with low-risk FN, and are informing the NHMRC-funded Predicting Infectious Complications in Children with Cancer (PICNICC) project, linking eight paediatric cancer hospitals, ensuring all children with cancer across Australia benefit from these findings. Dr Benjamin Teh won the Clinical Researcher category for his work to improve the care of infections in patients with blood cancer multiple myeloma treated with new generation therapies. Infections are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with myeloma (MM) cancer. Patterns and risk factors for serious infections remain undefined despite increasing use of new generation anti-myeloma drugs. Assessing the risk for infection is also becoming more challenging as these drugs have wide effects on the immune system. The research aims were to address gaps in knowledge about infection pattern and risk factors for a range of serious infections and to improve infection care by trialling the use of immune profiling to predict future risk for infection. The findings have advanced knowledge of infections in patients with MM, contributed significantly to the scientific literature in this field and by helping to predict and prevent infections, changed clinical practice.

Malaria researcher Kerryn Moore, from the Burnet Institute, has won two prizes at the Victorian Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research. Ms Moore was awarded the Public Health prize and the award for overall Excellence. Her research on the impact of malaria in pregnancy on birth outcomes in Asia has influenced World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on treatment. Ms Moore completed her PhD under the supervision of Burnet Deputy Program Director, Maternal and Child Health, Associate Professor Freya Fowkes, Professor Julie Simpson (University of Melbourne), and Professor Rose McGready of the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit in Thailand. “Kerryn’s research has had major implications on WHO best practice for the control, prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy,” Associate Professor Fowkes said. “She has truly made an original contribution to exploration of an important topic in malaria and global public health.”

Dr Kate Hayward, from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, has been awarded the Bayer Science and Education Foundation’s Early Excellence in Science Award (Medical Science category). The prize, worth EUR 10 000, was awarded by an independent scientific committee. The Bayer foundation presents these Early Excellence in Science Awards to excellent young scientists and physicians in the early stages of their academic and clinical research careers. The prizes will be awarded on 25 June at the Bayer Foundation Day in Berlin. Dr Hayward is a clinician-neuroscientist who completed her Bachelor of Physiotherapy at James Cook University, her PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Queensland, and the first phase of her NHMRC Early Career Fellowship at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Her research to date has focused on upper limb rehabilitation as a model to understand the neurobiology of recovery post-stroke. Her work has demonstrated that current approaches to upper limb rehabilitation help patients recover a little bit of function, but do not enable patients to achieve large, clinically meaningful gains. Current approaches are likely limited because they are one-size-fits-all; offering too little rehabilitation too late in the recovery timeline. Her current work aims to leverage within human stroke trials the knowledge about neurobiology defined in preclinical models of stroke. Her clinical trials are designed to support development of new approaches that are focused on “right patient, time, intervention and dose”. Dr Hayward’s work is aligned with the international vision of the Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery Roundtable taskforce, of which she is a member. This international talent award was first presented in 2009. It is awarded in the three categories biology, chemistry and medical science. The selection is made on the basis of the originality and quality of candidates’ research and the significance of this work for the respective award category.

  • Cate Swannell



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