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Immunopathology Group Leader, Associate Professor Sumaira Hasnain has been named the 2021 Mater People Awards winner for research excellence for the significant impact she has made in the field of immunology.
The award recognises her amazing work in discovering a new paradigm in immunology that has led to the identification of a potential therapeutic target for Fatty Liver Disease.
Sumaira had previously identified that specific factors released by our immune cells can regulate the production of microscopic molecules inside of our cells called “proteins”.
That basic discovery led to a breakthrough when her team discovered that immune factor-driven protein imbalance is common in patients with Fatty Liver Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and infectious diseases - and that it could be targeted to improve the health outcomes of these patients.
The team has now developed a drug that could potentially be used to treat Fatty Liver Disease - which affects more than 30 per cent of Australian adults and about 62.2 million people globally. People with Fatty Liver disease are at a greater risk of developing diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and eventual liver failure.
Sumaira’s findings have been patented in Australia, the US and Europe with two other inventors. This has led to venture capitalist funding and a spin-off company, giving it a strong commercial base.
Her group is currently conducting preclinical work to understand the potential risks associated with the drug. She hopes to attract additional industry investment to enable the licencing of the developed therapeutic as the first-in-class treatment for Fatty Liver Disease and translate this into a Phase 1 clinical trial.
Sumaira’s research targets an unmet healthcare need for Australians and has the potential to change treatment of Fatty Liver disease – for which there are currently no approved therapeutics.
Her team includes multi-disciplinary biomedical scientists, who work closely with clinical collaborators, to design clinically relevant experiments in diseases that have a clear treatment gap. This clinical-biomedical cohesive research approach fits with Mater’s strategy to achieve health impacts through integrated research excellence and has led to translation of basic discoveries.
Congratulations also to Dr Julie Cichero who was named a joint winner of the Emerging Leader Award.
Julie, who is the Mater Research Compliance Manager, was given the honour because her understanding of the complex regulatory, ethics and governance environment has paved the way for improvements in Mater’s support for researchers, clinicians and students to undertake high-quality research.
The Mater People Awards celebrated 49 finalists, including our other Mater Researchers Professors Brian Gabrielli, Kristen Radford, Jo Forbes Jake Begun and Dr Helen Barrett.
Mater Chief Executive Officer, Peter Steer, said the awards demonstrated the compassion, care and dedication of Mater’s 10 000-strong Queensland workforce.
“From clinical solutions to reduce patient wait times to language interpreter services and ground-breaking medical research, Mater’s people demonstrate incredible leadership, innovation and compassionate care,” Dr Steer said.
“While all Mater People play a role in our achievements, the Mater People Awards provides an opportunity to highlight some of our outstanding work and to recognise the commitment and dedication of individuals and teams who have enabled it.
“COVID-19 has been a testing time for all Mater People, and the awards allow us to celebrate our successes in spite of challenges. They also clearly demonstrate that we have maintained our focus on delivering compassionate care to those in need.”
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