World Asthma Day 2024

In the lead up to World Asthma Day, the CURE Asthma Symposium saw collaborators converge, including Profs Gary Anderson, Stuart Mazzone and Jennifer Wilkinson-Berka, to initiate an Australia-wide research collaboration.

In Australia, asthma is a significant health burden, responsible for 40,000 hospital admissions and over 400 deaths annually.

In the lead up to World Asthma Day, the first CURE Asthma Symposium was held in April at the Bio21 Institute in the Biomedical Parkville Precinct. The forum saw leading researchers, doctors and epidemiologists from across the country come together to initiate an Australia-wide research collaboration to cure asthma.

Our progress in treating asthma means that we have stopped looking for ways to cure people of the disease. This situation cannot continue. We propose a collaborative, scientific and systemic effort to cure asthma.

Asthma Australia

Prof Gary Anderson from the Department of Biochemistry & Pharmacology and member of the CURE Asthma Research Symposium Executive Steering Committee, said a cure for asthma requires constant perseverance.

Here in Australia we have a stellar record in asthma research...our innovation and development industry is ready to make the next transformational discovery...

Prof Stuart Mazzone, Research Group Leader of the Respiratory Sensory Neuroscience Laboratory (Department of Anatomy & Physiology), spoke about his research on the role of the nervous system in airway injury and repair in asthma. He stated that respiratory diseases are not just about the lung and that inflammation and plasticity in the nervous system is a driver of disease and symptoms in asthmatics.

Also in attendance at the symposium was Prof Sarath Ranganathan, Head of the Melbourne Medical School and Prof Jennifer Wilkinson-Berka, Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences who shared her experience of asthma, a disease that she has been personally affected by.

I grew up with asthma before there were effective treatments available…this meant multiple hospital trips…I recall a number of people in my neighbourhood who died from asthma during this time...

Prof Jennifer Wilkinson-Berka

Thankfully the efficacy of treatments for asthma has continued to improve. Here in the School of Biomedical Sciences, asthma and other chronic lung diseases have been at the forefront of research efforts, particularly through the work of the Profs Gary Anderson, Stuart Mazzone and Alastair Stewart.

Prof Alastair Stewart, Head of the Mechanopharmacology Laboratory Chair of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and CSO of Tianli Biotech, a company developing novel anti-asthma drugs, was personally challenged by a life-threatening episode of asthma as a child. As a result he has focused on lung health in his drug discovery and development research.

Alastair's Research Group looks at new ways of studying chronic lung (and other) diseases like asthma with body-on-a-chip technologies which allow new drugs to be evaluated in medium term tissue injury and repair responses. These new technologies use human cells to construct microtissues from patients with asthma, COPD or lung fibrosis.

Alastair and his team have also supported a biobanking project on thunderstorm asthma led by the Royal Melbourne Hospital. This is one of a number of clinical collaborations the lab have engaged with influencing community health advice.

The risk factors for thunderstorm asthma are now better understood leading to much improved public health measures immediately before the hayfever season and throughout the year.

Alastair featured in our Master of Biomedical Science Spotlight Series: Research Possibilities. Watch the series here.

About World Asthma Day

This year the theme for GINA’s World Asthma Day 2024, “Asthma Education Empowers” emphasises the need to empower people with asthma with the right education to manage their disease, and to recognise when to seek medical help. Learn more about World Asthma Day here.