23 Aug 2017

An Australian first: Monash launches new Diabetes Department

Research in the Diabetes department

Monash University will today officially launch its new Department of Diabetes – the first and only university department in Australia dedicated to the disease.

To be opened by the Honourable Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, the new Department is a partnership between Monash’s Central Clinical School in its Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, and Alfred Health.

Minister Hunt welcomed the new Department and what it will deliver in finding new cures and treatments for diabetes. “Diabetes is a debilitating disease and serious health issue affecting more than 1 million Australians,” Minister Hunt said.


“I welcome the opening of the new Department of Diabetes, which will bring together some of brightest researchers in the world to find new treatments and cures.

“Medical research is a key pillar of the Government’s Long Term National Health Plan and can provide real outcomes which benefit Australian patients. We’re also backing this research with more than $764 million for diabetes-related research allocated since 2000.”

Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AO thanked philanthropists, including the Jreissati and Meydan families, whose generous donations were core to the Department’s work to solve to one of the world’s largest epidemics.

“Diabetes is one of the most significant health challenges facing Australia, with more than 280 people developing the disease every day,” Professor Gardner said.

“By combining Monash’s world class research and teaching expertise with The Alfred’s exceptional contemporary clinical care, this new Department will be critical to leading new breakthroughs against a disease whose global cost exceeds A$860 billion annually.”

Alfred Health Chief Executive, Professor Andrew Way said the establishment of the Department will see more people with diabetes, not only at The Alfred but worldwide, benefiting from the new diabetes research.

“Clinical challenges seen in day-to-day care will be translated into research questions – and this promises to support a more rapid uptake of emerging treatments than would otherwise be possible,” Professor Way said.

Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and, arguably, the leading cause of kidney failure and dialysis, adult blindness and limb amputations in the world.  With its world-class team of 60 scientists, working across ten critical areas of diabetes research, the new Department has a strong emphasis on translating innovative research discoveries to ensure they are quickly translated into improving treatment outcomes for people with the disease.

While the Department started operating in early 2017, its research team has been working for over 10 years on diverse strategies to combat diabetes and its complications, in particular kidney disease, heart disease and blindness, covering new pharmacological and dietary approaches and epigenetics.  They have a large number of long-standing research collaborations with leading scientists and institutions around the world.

The Department’s inaugural Head is Professor Mark Cooper AO, a world-renowned expert in diabetes and senior endocrinologist at the Alfred Hospital, who was previously Chief Scientific Officer at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.

“The group’s disease-focussed scientific and medical research complement the rich suite of translational research already undertaken in the Central Clinical School in a wide variety of clinical and academic departments,” Professor Cooper said. “In addition to research, we also have a strong commitment to education – of the public, medical professionals and our future research leaders.”

Professor Paul Zimmet AO, Professor of Medicine and Principal Advisor of the Department of Diabetes, paid tribute to those who helped establish it.

“The vision and support of Monash University and local philanthropists have created an extraordinary and exciting opportunity to tackle diabetes,” Professor Zimmet said.  This included current major donors, the Meydan and Jreissati families.

“Diabetes is one of the largest epidemics in human history. I have no doubt that the Monash Department of Diabetes will make huge contributions in the future in terms of a better understanding of the prevention and management of diabetes and what causes its complications,” Professor Zimmet said.

Media enquiries:
Monash University media office:     T: +61 3 9903 4840
E: media@monash.edu

Department contacts:    Professor Mark Cooper – 0419 335 471
Professor Paul Zimmet -  0439 651 502

DEPARTMENT OF DIABETES FACTS

WHAT THE DEPARTMENT DOES

Diabetes is an exploding epidemic and the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system. Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, with more than 280 Australians developing the disease every day. This makes it the fastest growing chronic condition in the country. In 2013, diabetes caused 5.1 million deaths globally.

●    One of the major objectives of the Department is the clinical translation of research findings to benefit patients
●    Nurture young research talent through mentoring during PhD projects
●    Our team is working on diverse strategies – from dietary intervention to new pharmacological approaches – to combat diabetes and its complications; the three most significant of which are kidney disease, heart disease and blindness.

DEPARTMENT FACTS

●    60 researchers
●    10 critical areas
●    7 current PhD students and over 40 completed
●    Over 500 publications
●    $20M set up cost and a further $2M from philanthropic sources

DIABETES FACTS

●    1.7 million Australians, 5.1 million deaths globally
●    1 in every 9 health dollars is spent on diabetes
●    Estimated to rise past one trillion dollars (AUD) per annum worldwide (International Diabetes Foundation)

CASE STUDIES

Case study 1: ACE inhibitors slow down kidney disease
Professor Mark Cooper’s ground-breaking research from the 1980s identified enzymes (angiotensin-converting-enzyme [ACE] inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers [ARB]) that decrease the amount of protein in the urine, which in turn slow or even prevent the progression to diabetes-related kidney disease. The research was sufficiently promising to progress it through pre-clinical trials, then human trials, and the findings have been widely incorporated into medications and treatment protocols around the world.

Case study 2: Using NOX enzymes to combat kidney and heart disease
Innovative research by Monash scientists has progressed to clinical trials in humans for the treatment of kidney disease. Professor Karin Jandeleit-Dahm and her team have shown that an enzyme known as a NOX inhibitor, reduced inflammation and could even reverse complications which had already progressed in diabetic patients. The results using the novel NOX inhibitor in diabetic nephropathy will form the basis of clinical trials later this year at the Alfred campus.
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