Sydney Pharmacy focuses on asthma research

12 May 2014

Asthma affects two million people in Australia and causes more than 400 deaths each year. Maurice Renshaw is determined to stem the tide.

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Maurice’s sister passed away from asthma complications when she was quite young, so there is a personal connection to his donation of $315,000 towards asthma research at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Pharmacy.
The research team, led by Professor Alaina Ammit, is looking at the possibility of harnessing proteins in the body to act as anti-inflammatories and eradicate the symptoms of asthma. If successful, this treatment could improve corticosteroids, which can cause harmful side-effects, especially in children. Furthermore, 10 percent of asthmatics are corticosteroid-resistant.
“The work being done by Alaina and her team can make a very meaningful impact on the health and lives of asthmatics,” says Maurice, whose gift funds a postgraduate scholarship in respiratory disease.
Alaina, who is internationally renowned for her work on the mechanistic basis of inflammation in asthma and airway remodelling, says Maurice’s generosity will have far-reaching benefits. “It allows a talented team of academics, researchers and students to investigate asthma in great depth and potentially find a way to alleviate the chronic and inflammatory symptoms of this disease,” she says. “Our research will help to save lives, ease breathing and allow those affected to return to normal everyday activities.”
Professor Iqbal Ramzan, Dean of the Sydney Faculty of Pharmacy, concurs that the faculty is very grateful for Maurice’s support of pharmaceutical research. “Not only will it provide hope for a cure for individuals with chronic respiratory conditions and asthma, through his gift of a PhD scholarship, Maurice is ensuring that we continue to educate the bright minds and train future research leaders who will provide solutions to future healthcare challenges.”
The current scholarship holder is Pavan Prabhala, a medical science graduate of the university, who is working with Alaina’s team.
Since starting his research in March 2013, Pavan has been investigating the role that mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase 1 (MKP-1) plays in repressing inflammation.
“Developing a more specific means to halt MKP-1 offers promise of a novel anti-inflammatory strategy,” says Alaina.
Additionally, the team is investigating the role of the protein tristetraprolin (TTP). Past research on TTP has focused on its role in rheumatoid arthritis, while its anti-inflammatory function in airway disease has been relatively unexplored. Importantly, TTP has the ability to destabilise a number of critical cytokines that drive inflammation in asthma.

Areas of research in the Faculty of Pharmacy

Research in the Sydney Faculty of Pharmacy centres on five key themes that align with top national priorities:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular and Diabetes
  • Health Services and Patient Safety
  • Mental Health
  • Respiratory Diseases

The research conducted at the Sydney Faculty of Pharmacy covers a broad spectrum of pharmaceutical and clinical sciences ranging from the design, synthesis, testing and mechanism of action of drugs, through studies on methods of drug delivery and on the fate of drugs in humans and animals, to research on the clinical and sociological aspects of pharmacy.
Some current research topics relate to calcium regulation and cell signalling, cancer and anti-cancer agents, photobiology of drugs and pollutants, radiopharmaceutical agents, formulation and delivery of proteins and drugs, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, pharmaceutical powders, asthma, quality use of medicines, and various issues relating to community pharmacy practice.

Bachelor of Pharmacy Program at the University of Sydney

The Bachelor of Pharmacy requires four years of full-time study. There are two semesters and one entry period per year. Major topics studied include chemical, physical, pharmaceutical and pharmacological properties of medicines and the application of these in the practice of pharmacy.
Program: Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm)
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Semester intake: February
Duration: 4 years
Application deadline: September 30, 2014

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Learn more about studying pharmacy at the University of Sydney Pharmacy School. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Pharmacy Schools Admissions Officer Rachel Brady at or call Rachel at 1866-698-7355 (toll free in Canada).