A specialist from The University of Western Australia who is at the forefront of research into high blood pressure (hypertension) will spearhead efforts to develop preventive strategies to reduce death and disability from cardiovascular disease.
Hypertension can contribute to many diseases including heart attack, kidney failure or stroke and is responsible for millions of deaths worldwide each year.
Renal physician and hypertension specialist Professor Markus Schlaich has been appointed inaugural Dobney Chair in Clinical Research, a position co-funded by UWA, Royal Perth Hospital and the Royal Perth Hospital Medical Research Foundation.
Professor Schlaich said cardiovascular disease was an enormous burden on health and society, with more than 30 per cent of Australians affected by high blood pressure and 8.5 million deaths each year worldwide, directly attributable to uncontrolled blood pressure. Despite substantial scientific efforts, there were clear shortcomings in the mission to translate research expertise into applied clinical solutions and preventive strategies, he said.
"Better research programs to identify the underlying causes and developing more successful therapeutic strategies are key to reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease," Professor Schlaich said.
"The role of the sympathetic nervous system in the development of hypertension and novel therapeutic approaches to specifically target these overactive nerves must be a major research focus.
"The fact that a large number of patients with hypertension don't stick to their prescribed blood pressure-lowering medication is another important clinical challenge that needs to be addressed."
The position, a first for WA, is the result of a strong partnership forged over many years between UWA, RPH and the RPH Medical Research Foundation. Funding of almost $6.5 million over seven years will provide for the Chair as well as a postdoctoral research fellow, a nurse manager, a research officer, a part-time executive assistant and a set-up grant.
Professor Schlaich, an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow, was previously working at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Research Institute in Melbourne, where he was head of the neurovascular hypertension and kidney disease laboratory. He has received many research prizes and awards for his work, including the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Medical Research Translation, and has served on the executive committee of the High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia.
Ray Dobney was a long-term cancer patient at RPH and generous donor to the RPH Medical Research Foundation, which co-funds the chair package.
Photo (left to right): The funding partners welcoming the new Chair: Dr Aresh Anwar, Acting Executive Director Royal Perth Group; Associate Professor Brendan McQuillan, UWA Head of School of Medicine and Pharmacology, Winthrop Professor Markus Schlaich, Dobney Chair in Clinical Research and Emeritus Professor Lawrie Beilin AO, Chairman RPH Medical Research Foundation.