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Centenary Institute - Medical Research
Centenary Institute - Medical Research

Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation

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Inflammation is increasingly being found to play crucial roles in the development of many major diseases, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, diabetes, tuberculosis and COVID-19. The Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation is Australia’s first research centre dedicated exclusively to studying the mechanisms underlying inflammation, to understand how specific diseases develop and progress.

The Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation brings together world-leading experts in a partnership between one of Australia’s foremost medical research institutes and the country’s top-rated young university. The Centre collaborates with a global network of other pioneering inflammation researchers, including at the universities of Manchester, Edinburgh and London in the UK, as well as other research institutes, universities and industry across Australia and globally.

We consider that understanding inflammation is the key to unlocking a new armoury of treatments and cures for many of the deadliest and prominent diseases effecting humanity. The Centre will be at the forefront of this life-saving medical research.

An advanced approach

The first step is to develop detailed and accurate models of specific diseases, in order to identify new therapeutic targets. Traditionally, most research centres tend to specialise in just one or two specific aspects of a disease. In contrast, here at the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation, we are utilising the very latest research technologies to simultaneously consider every aspect of pathways linked to the development and progression of a disease, at genetic, molecular, cellular and tissue levels. Data will come from advanced research techniques including single cell sequencing, RNA transcription, proteomics and mass cytometry.

Our bioinformatics specialists will then use the wealth of new data generated in comprehensive ‘multi-omics’ approaches to profile the whole disease, identifying new potential targets for therapies that might not otherwise become apparent. Using these methods to create incredible new profiles of disease will revolutionise our understanding of how diseases develop, operate and progress over time. This will ultimately lead to revolutionary new approaches to prevention, treatments and cures.

One process, many diseases

As inflammation is implicated in so many diseases, we believe it is very likely that breakthroughs in our understanding of how to control the process more effectively will in turn lead to treatments that can be effective across multiple diseases. For example, Centenary developed a drug, CD5-2, that was initially designed to combat the development of solid cancers by reducing and repairing damage caused by inflammation in blood vessels. CD5-2 has subsequently been found to have potential as a treatment to prevent sight loss in people with diabetes, and to reduce damage caused by a rare but serious brain disease, cerebral cavernous malformation, which can lead to seizures, paralysis, sight and hearing loss, and sometimes fatal brain haemorrhages.

 

Initial focus: respiratory diseases

Respiratory diseases linked to inflammation are among the leading causes of all deaths worldwide. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lower respiratory infections and lung cancer make up three of the ten leading causes of death globally.

More than 1 billion people suffer from either acute or chronic respiratory conditions. Asthma is also a massive cause of illness affecting 1 in 10 Australians. Currently the SARS-CoV-2 is causing a huge global pandemic infecting millions of people and many tens of thousands of deaths.

Professor Phil Hansbro, one of the world’s leading respiratory researchers, has been appointed to lead the newly established Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation. He and his team have over 20 years of experience exploring how the immune system, and in particular the inflammatory process, contribute to progression of chronic respiratory diseases.

Initially, Prof Hansbro and his team are focussing on COPD (the third most common cause of death in the world), severe asthma and now COVID-19. In these diseases chronic or excessive inflammation results in tissue damage and current therapies are ineffective. As the Centre expands, activity in other disease areas will also be brought into the program, including lung cancer and cystic fibrosis, then non-respiratory diseases.

Delivering for our community

The work of the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation will transform our understanding of how respiratory diseases occur, providing new targets for investigation and offering up exciting new possibilities for treatments and cures that will positively impact lives. By understanding the role of inflammation and the immune system in respiratory disease we will be closer to unlocking the drivers of other disease areas too, where inflammation also plays a leading or significant role.

Professor Philip Hansbro

Professor Phil Hansbro is an internationally recognised research leader in the study of respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive airway disease (COPD, aka emphysema) and infections and is developing interests in lung cancer. His work is substantially contributing to understanding the pathogenesis and developing new therapies for these diseases.

His work has made internationally important contributions and led to the identification of novel avenues for therapy that are under further study. This is achieved through the development of novel mouse models that recapitulate the hallmark features of human disease, including infections, asthma and COPD and now lung cancer. He employs these models in integrated approaches (infection, immunity and physiology with particular expertise in lung function analysis) to understand human diseases, and develop new treatment strategies. Research outcomes have a translational goal and his studies are conducted in parallel with collaborative human studies with clinical researchers.