The new Director of the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania has detailed a sharpening of his institution's medical research focus.
Speaking to a Menzies supporter group today (Tuesday 27 November), Professor Tom Marwick - a cardiovascular expert who arrived in Hobart from the Cleveland Clinic last month - said he was "not a fan of change in direction when a new director takes over an institution... that’s potentially destructive and I am not going to pursue that here.
"However, I think there are some principles which should guide our research activities and those principles relate to what the burden of disease is in Tasmania, diseases that either cause death or impaired quality of, life in this State."
He went on to list cardiovascular disease, cancer; brain disease, dementia and stroke; musculoskeletal disease; obesity and lifestyle changes, and the social determinants of disease.
"Our web site lists 14 topics of interest at Menzies. They are all very worthy topics but the way that research works these days, particularly in Australia, is that it is important to focus, to bring disparate researchers with common interests together so they see problems from multiple angles," Prof Marwick said.
"Those are the grant applications that are competitive and those are the research studies which achieve high impact, which are published in high-impact journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet and BMJ.
"So we have condensed those areas to five key topics:
- Public health and primary care (led by Professor Alison Venn, Menzies' Deputy Director). "This is traditionally the strength of the Menzies, it's what the Menzies became famous for in the first instance and it is still core strength and a core interest."
- Neurodegenerative disease and brain injury (Prof David Small). "This is obviously a very important topic – the area in dementia care is linked to the interests of the Faculty of Health Sciences through the Wicking Centre and it’s an area that I think is going to become more important over coming days."
- Cardio-metabolic disease (Prof Marwick). "Cardiac disease doesn’t occur in isolation, it occurs because the body or the vasculature – the blood vessels in the body - is poisoned by a bunch of stimuli that are in the environment. We think it is important to study the hardened vessels in conjunction with metabolism."
- Musculoskeletal disease (Prof Graeme Jones). "It is an area that has received very significant grant support in this year’s federal funding rounds."
- Cancer genetics and immunology (Associate Prof Jo Dickson). "Cancer is the second most common cause of death, it is a huge cause of disease burden, and we have a group of researchers who are interested in that topic.
"My eventual goal is to those five areas linked across the spectrum of research that goes from the bench in the laboratory to the bedside in the hospital, from the clinical research to primary care and the general population. I don’t think in any of those areas have we reached this kind of nirvana of research but this is one of our goals to be able to offer studies that come from science, to apply this clinically, to take it to primary care and the population," Prof Marwick concluded.