Gilead Sciences awards grants to seven research projects
Gilead Sciences ANZ’s 2020 Gilead Fellowship Research Grants Program has awarded funding to seven research projects focused on improving patient outcomes in HIV, liver diseases, invasive fungal infections, haematological malignancies and inflammatory diseases.
The $300,000 grand program aims to help bridge the gap in Australian research funding by providing support to projects that have a local community focus, and which often struggle to secure funding or face high competition.
One of the winning projects aims to create a mobile medical centre to treat hepatitis C (HCV) in high-risk patient populations, to support the elimination of the disease in Australia.
Andrew Pfeffer — Clinical Consultant Pharmacist and Director of Pharmaceutical Research Services in Logan Queensland — runs a private addiction medicine clinic and is seeking to fill this important gap in the targeting and treatment of HCV.
“Research shows that around 30% of people in custody in Australia have HCV. This figure increases to 60% in individuals who use drugs. This makes those coming out of correctional facilities an important cohort if Australia wants to play its part to achieve elimination,” Pfeffer said.
“Currently, Queensland health services do quite a lot for those in custody, but there isn’t anyone catching them when they are leaving, or newly out in the community. We hope to close this gap in care. One of our goals is to upskill parole and probation officers to screen and engage their clients to be tested and treated for Hep C.
“In Logan (Brisbane South PHN), we have the fifth-highest prevalence of HCV amongst Australian health districts, with the third lowest treatment uptake rate. The Gilead Fellowship funding is such an important step to help us reach those who wouldn’t access treatment or testing otherwise.”
Pfeffer’s mobile clinic also aims to address the prevalence of HCV among other high-risk populations, including those with a history of injecting drugs.
Although Australia has led the way globally to reach the WHO’s 2030 elimination target, an estimated 180,000 Australians are still living with treatable HCV causing over 600 preventable deaths from liver cancer and liver failure every year.
Gilead Sciences ANZ Country Medical Director Dr Paul Slade said, “At Gilead we are driven by a desire to help patients in need through groundbreaking research and innovation.
“This year’s recipients of the 2020 Fellowship Research Grants are exciting standout projects that we believe will make a big difference in the quality of lives of patients across the country. We are proud to recognise these projects and provide them with support to help meet their goals.
Miles Sparrow — whose research project will test the feasibility of rapid testing for faecal biomarkers and therapeutic drug monitoring — said, “I’m really excited to be a recipient of the Gilead Fellowship Grant. I think we could really make a difference to patients’ quality of life by making the test that we’re trialling more accessible.
“Without the grant, we couldn’t do this project — the current tests that we’re trying to replace are cumbersome, costly and slow, and for sick patients who are desperate for effective treatment, a test that turns around a result on the same day could make a real difference,” he said.
The full list of winners of the 2020 Gilead Fellowship Research Grants Program are:
Kieran Mulroney at the University of Western Australia for research to provide fast and accurate diagnostic tests for invasive fungal infections, as confirmation of infection is important to determine treatment and timing of medicine.
Miles Sparrow at Alfred Health for research into developing rapid, point-of-care testing for therapeutic drug monitoring and faecal biomarker testing in inflammatory bowel disease.
Nila Dharan at UNSW Sydney’s Kirby Institute for a study evaluating and comparing ageing and quality of life among older adults with and without HIV.
Jessica Howell at the Burnet Institute for research to further develop point-of-care testing for liver inflammation and fibrosis in chronic hepatitis B, which allows real-time measurement with a droplet of blood within 20 minutes.
Jack Heron at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for a retrospective study that examines past HIV kidney transplants nationwide to examine therapy and patient outcomes.
Shio Yen Tio at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and University of Melbourne for research to improve diagnosis of invasive fungal and bacterial infections in patients with haematological malignancies and stem cell transplants.
Andrew Pfeffer, a Clinical Consultant Pharmacist and a Director of Pharmaceutical Research Services in Logan, Queensland, for a new mobile medical centre to treat HCV in high-risk patient populations.
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