Australia has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world. Research will improve diagnosis, treatment and management strategies for asthma, as well as lead to the development of novel asthma vaccines.
Centre researchers led by Respiratory Physician Professor Peter Gibson are involved in basic research and translational research, working in the area of asthma and other airway diseases, as they relate to pregnancy, childhood, adult life and the elderly. This research is increasing the understanding of asthma and pregnancy, dietary influences on asthma, the role of viruses in asthma, innate immunity in airway disease, the link between bacterial infections and asthma and the role of pneumococcal infection in treating asthma.
In 2004 Professor Paul Foster and his team of biomedical scientists moved from the Australian National University in Canberra to join the HMRI's viruses, infections/immunity, vaccines and asthma (VIVA) program. The team's primary research focus is to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate allergic diseases. The research considers asthma, eczema, hay fever and an emerging range of allergic diseases of the gastro-intestinal tract.
Using animal models, Professor Foster and his team have developed models of allergy induced asthma, bacterial induced asthma and viral induced asthma. By using animal models researchers are able to study how the animals develop the disease and thus better understand how allergic diseases such as asthma develop.
In 2005 Professors Foster and Gibson's research teams were named as part of the Cooperative Research Centre for Asthma and Airways (CRCAA), a collaborative research team which has been awarded $26.44 million over seven years for research into asthma and airways. The CRC was established in October 1999 as a company limited by guarantee. The CRC is a joint venture between two medical research institutes, four universities and two pharmaceutical companies. It brings together some of Australia's leading asthma research groups working out of Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and Perth.
Professor Gibson's team is also part of the NHMRC Cooperative Centre for Research Excellence in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine. The Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine will enhance Australia's international research reputation in clinical respiratory and sleep medicine by encouraging links between hospital-investigators. This will foster development of new clinical researchers in these fields. Major research projects will include:
- Reducing side effects of asthma therapy in the elderly
- Better and cheaper ways of diagnosing disorders such as sleep apnea and blood clots in the lungs
- Keeping patients with chronic lung diseases out of hospital
- Avoiding accidents due to lack of sleep.
The CCRE for Respiratory and Sleep Medicine incorporates existing research projects, which will be enhanced and expanded and new projects will be initiated. The Centre will focus on those research projects that are suitable vehicles for fostering clinical research training.