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New asthma drug ready for human trials

Millions of asthma patients worldwide could benefit from asthma research supported by the Queensland Government at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

QIMR Berghofer researcher Dr Manuel Ferreira is examining how an arthritis drug can be used to treat asthma and alternative ways for asthmatics to receive this medication through a nebuliser rather than needles.

Minister for Science and Innovation Ian Walker said asthma affects around 1 in 10 Australians, and Dr Ferreira’s ground-breaking work could significantly reduce the number and severity of asthma attacks.

“It is a great example of how Queensland Government funding is turning great ideas into great opportunities,” Mr Walker said.

“Dr Ferreira was awarded $360,000 from the Queensland Government and since starting his research he has demonstrated that the arthritis drug tocilizumab can prevent and reduce asthma in animals. This is potentially life-saving work.

“He’s about to start clinical trials of the drug with 16 asthma patients and we’ll be very interested to see the results of that work.

“The Queensland Government continues to show our support of ground breaking research through the $8.75 million Accelerate Queensland Science and Innovation Program, which supports individual researchers as well as joint projects with industry.

“It’s crucial to have people with the talent of Dr Ferreira conducting their research here in Queensland as a reminder to the rest of the scientific community that, not only are we open for business but we have world-class facilities and are a place that attracts some of the best and brightest researchers.

“Unlike the previous Labor Government, we are determined not to let Queensland’s research and innovation sector languish. This government realises that research and innovation is vital to our future economic growth and prosperity.”

Mr Walker said Dr Ferreira had also worked with university researchers to develop an innovative method for administering tocilizumab, which is traditionally delivered to patients intravenously.

“Dr Ferreira has worked with researchers at Monash and RMIT universities to develop a nebuliser that can deliver tocilizumab so that it can go straight to asthma patients’ lungs, like other asthma treatments,” Mr Walker said.

“This is a more comfortable and effective delivery method for asthma patients, and has the potential to expand possible delivery methods for a whole class of important drugs.”

QIMR Berghofer Director and CEO Professor Frank Gannon said that Dr Ferreira’s work was another example of research at the Institute being translated to the clinic. The planned trials are the first step in a process that could help millions of asthma patients.



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