Professor Matthew Brown from the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute was recently awarded the $1.25 million Premier’s Science Fellowship to develop his work in the diagnosis and treatment of these common diseases.
UQ will match the state funding dollar for dollar, to further support Professor Brown’s research.
“Rheumatoid arthritis affects 2.5 percent of Queenslanders and more than 513,000 Australians,” Professor Brown said. “There are no treatments to prevent it, or to induce remission.”
Tuberculosis remained a rising concern around the world.
“In Queensland, we are seeing a rise in cases of multidrug-resistant TB arriving from Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait islands,” he said. “Because of the lack of useful treatments, the disease is often fatal.”
Although rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and TB a chronic infection, Professor Brown said the two shared susceptibility factors, so research into the diseases was related.
“Immunity against TB is highly heritable so a person’s genetic makeup is a significant determinant of whether they develop or clear the infection,” he said.
Professor Brown said the fellowship funding would enable his Translational Research Institute team—working in a tri-nation partnership with researchers from China and Norway—to spend the next five years identifying genes that underlie the causes of rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis.
“The techniques we are developing have real commercial possibilities and health-care benefits,” Professor Brown said. “We expect to roll out affordable diagnostic tests within five years, paving the way for new treatments targeting the root cause of the diseases.”
Premier Campbell Newman congratulated Professor Brown on his groundbreaking work, and thanked him for the remarkable quality of his research, which had helped position Queensland as a global leader in genetic research and diagnostic testing.
“This fellowship will allow Professor Brown to advance his gene-mapping research in ways that will benefit Queensland industry and our health,” Mr Newman said.
In the past, Professor Brown has taken out three patents for tests to diagnose ankylosing spondylitis—a severe type of arthritis affecting more than 80,000 Australians—and his genetic findings on that have led to treatment trials.
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