Around the Precinct – 24 September 2020

Alliance researchers are named among the field leaders in Australia and the world; old lung diseases re-emerge; researchers shed new light on the use of asthma medications, the management of schizophrenia and the potential long-term effects of COVID-19; a revolutionary device to help restore vision set for world-first human clinical trials; and more good advice on controlling the pandemic. Here’s just some of the stories from this week at the Alfred Research Allliance.


A number of Alfred Research Alliance scholars were named in a list of leading researchers in a special research report put out this week by The Australian newspaper. It nominated the lead researcher in each of 66 fields, based on the highest number of citations from papers published in the last five years in the 20 top journals in their field. In each field, the paper also named Australia’s top research institution, the one with most citations in the top 20 journals in the field in the last five years.

Individual researchers from the Alliance who made the list of Australia’s research field leaders included (in alphabetical order):

  • Prof Alex Collie, Monash SPHPM – Occupational & Environmental Health
  • Prof John Dixon, Baker Institute – Obesity
  • Prof Caroline Homer, Burnet Institute – Pregnancy & Childbirth
  • Prof Paul Myles, Monash CCS, Alfred Health – Anasthesiology
  • Prof Jeffrey Rosenfeld, Monash CCS, Alfred Health –  Neurosurgery
    Prof Sophia Zoungas, Monash SPHPM, Alfred Health – Diabetes

Burnet was named as the lead research institute in Gastroenterology & Hepatology, while Monash received similar credit in 21 areas including Anasthesiology, Communicable Diseases, Diabetes, Emergency Medicine, Endocrinology, Epidemiology, Health & Medical Sciences (general), Hematology, Pharmacology & Pharmacy, Immunology, Molecular Biology, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Nutrition Science, Obesity, Orthopaedic Medicine & Surgery, Physiology, Primary Health Care, Rehabilitation Therapy, Urology & Nephrology and Vascular Medicine.


Asthma patients urged to review medication

Respiratory specialists at The Alfred are urging people with asthma to review their medication after new research found one quarter of people who use inhaler controllers receive potentially toxic cumulative doses of oral corticosteroid. Not only were almost 350,000 people dispensed levels of oral prednisolone-equivalents at levels associated with long-term systemic toxicity, as many as half of the patients were not adhering to appropriate controller therapy. Read more…


Long-term Health Consequences of COVID-19 Becoming Clearer: ABC 7.30 Report

Medical researchers are investigating the impact of COVID-19 on vital organs such as the lungs, heart, kidneys and the brain. Even if only a small percentage of patients suffer long-term effects, millions of people around the world will be left with potentially debilitating conditions. In the report, Dr Robb Wesselingh from Monash CCS explained some of the potential complications of COVID-19 could include permanent neuron damage and nerve damage, which don’t repair well. See the full report…

Schizophrenia Outcomes may be Improved by Repurposed Drug

A study by Monash University researchers has found that a drug used in the treatment of osteoporosis may help improve symptoms of schizophrenia. Prof Jayashri Kulkarni from Monash CCS and Prof Suresh Sundram from the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health, are leading an ongoing clinical trial of a new type of ‘brain estrogen’ called a Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM). Early results show the new SERM being trialled, Bazedoxifene, may result in improvement in schizophrenia symptoms. Read more…

Opening Eyes to a Frontier in Vision Restoration

A revolutionary cortical vision device developed by Monash researchers that could one day help restore vision to the blind, is being prepared for world-first human clinical trials in Melbourne. The Gennaris bionic vision system can bypass damaged optic nerves which prevent signals being transmitted from the retina to the ‘vision centre’ of the brain. It is the result of the ‘Cortical Frontiers’ project by the Monash Vision Group, a collaborative partnership between Monash University and Alfred Health. Read more…


Black Lung and Silicosis – old OLDs making a resurgence in Australia

Workplace exposures from our industrial past are returning to haunt Australia as occupational lung diseases (OLDs) once thought eradicated are reappearing, according to a new report by researchers at the Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health. Prof Malcolm Sim AM and colleagues were commissioned by Safe Work Australia to update Occupational Lung Diseases in Australia, the report’s first update since 2006. Their review highlighted a resurgence in Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis (CWP), commonly known as ‘Black Lung’, and silicosis. Read more…


Professor Caroline Homer is ‘Top of the World’

Congratulations to Prof Caroline Homer AO, recognised by The Australian as a world leader in the field of pregnancy and childbirth in a special report on the nation’s top 250 researchers. Burnet Institute’s Co-Program Director for Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, Professor Homer is acknowledged in the report as one of nine Australian researchers among the 250 who are global leaders in their particular fields. In Professor Homer’s case, she has the highest number of citations from papers published in the last five years in the top 20 journals in the field of pregnancy and childbirth. Read more…

Melbourne Should Ease Out of COVID-19 Restrictions Cautiously

Burnet Institute epidemiologist Professor Mike Toole AM told The Age Melbourne should emerge out of the second wave much more cautiously than it had eased out of the first wave. He said Melburnians would have something to look forward to on 28 September when some of the lowest-risk restrictions were eased, but cautioned against pinning hopes on the 26 October and 23 November dates outlined in the government’s four-step road map. Read more…

Burnet Welcomes Professors Susan Sawyer and George Patton as Honorary Research Fellows

Collaboration in the field of global adolescent health is set to be enhanced by the appointment of Prof Susan Sawyer and Prof George Patton as Burnet Institute Honorary Research Fellows. Professor Sawyer is the chair of adolescent health at the University of Melbourne and the director of the Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Adolescent Health, and Professor Patton is an epidemiologist and a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Principal Research Fellow. Their appointment is set to strengthen Burnet’s work across the Asia-Pacific region. Read more…