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Dr Sanjay Patel, Group Leader at the Heart Research Institute, has been awarded a highly prestigious 2016 Ramaciotti Grant to pursue his work developing a cost-effective therapy to prevent heart attack and stroke.

The five Ramaciotti Health Investment Grants of $150,000 are awarded to autonomous early career scientists to support health or medical research with a potential path to clinical application within five years.

The grant will allow Dr Patel to pursue his work developing a novel cost-effective therapy to stop the progression of atherosclerosis before it leads to heart attack and stroke.

This project targets inflammation, by testing the cardio-protective properties of colchicine, a widely available and cost-effective anti-inflammatory drug that has long been used to treat arthritis caused by gout.

Dr Patel, who is also an interventional cardiologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Hospital, discovered that colchicine, can significantly improve heart health by lowering the levels of dangerous inflammatory proteins.

Inflammatory cells and proteins play a critical role in atherosclerosis, fat build-up in the vessel wall, the leading cause of death and disability in Australia. Despite current best treatments, many people remain at high risk of cardiovascular complications such as stroke, or heart attack – which claims the life of someone in Australia every 24 minutes.

“If we’re able to prove its success in larger studies, we’ll have a brand new therapy that will considerably brighten the outlook for people who suffer heart attacks,” said Dr Patel.

In initial studies, Dr Patel studied 40 people with acute coronary syndrome, a life-threatening condition in which the coronary blood vessel is blocked, causing heart attack or severe chest pain.

“In these studies we are able to treat patients straight away, and have already in preliminary research,” he said.

It is high­ly like­ly that suc­cess­ful stud­ies will lead to colchicine becom­ing a clin­i­cal treat­ment for ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis with­in the next five years, decreas­ing the risk of heart attack and stroke for more than 230,000 peo­ple in Aus­tralia with atherosclerosis.”

Patients who have the condition have plaques on their arteries causing the blockages, and often have high levels of some inflammatory markers, known as Interleukins β, 18 and 6, in their blood.

“We know from pathology and histology that when you take coronary arteries from patients who have died, the plaques are just full of inflammatory markers and proteins,” he said.

“Inflammation is really intimately involved with every stage of the disease.”

The Ramaciotti Foundation is one of the biggest and most prestigious philanthropic contributors to medical research in Australia, awarding just five Health Investment Grants each year. Previous Ramaciotti winners having been responsible for the development of the world’s first cervical cancer vaccines and the Cochlear implant, highlighting the significant impact that philanthropy can have on the wellbeing of millions of people.

Husband and wife team Professor Jane Visvader and Professor Geoff Lindeman, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, were selected as the joint recipients of the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research, an annual award of $50,000 to honour an outstanding discovery in clinical or experimental biomedical research. Professors Visvader and Lindeman received the medal for their pioneering work in discovering new approaches to breast cancer treatment and prevention.

Perpetual is a trustee of the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Foundation.

Congratulations to all the Ramaciotti Health Investment Grants recipients!

Ramaciotti Health Investment Grants recipients

ResearcherInstitutionProject Title
Dr Jane KohlhoffUNSWThe ‘Watch Me Grow’ App for identification of developmental and mental health problems in early childhood: a validation study
A/Professor Lyndell LimCentre for Eye Research AustraliaImproving cataract surgery outcomes in patients with Diabetic Macular Oedema (the DiMeCAT Trial)
A/Professor Philippa MiddletonSouth Australian Health and Medical Research Institute LtdOptimega: Preventing preterm birth and improving long term and intergenerational health through personalising dietary fat intake for pregnant women
Dr Sanjay PatelThe Heart Research InstituteColchicine – A novel role in stabilising vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque
Dr Mark PolizzottoUNSW Australia (Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity)Immune modulation for prevention of anogenital cancer in people with persistent high-grade anal intraepithelial neoplasia


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