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PARF helps drive kidney transplant success

Monday 10 August 2020

If you have kidney disease, and especially if you need a kidney transplant, the best place to be treated is at Brisbane's PA Hospital (PAH) - home to the Queensland Kidney Transplant Service and the Australasian Kidney Trials Network.

Now the largest transplant service in all of Oceania, the growth of both the service and trial network is in part thanks to ongoing funding support it has received from the PA Research Foundation (PARF).

According to Queensland Kidney Transplant Service's Medical Director, Professor David Johnson, much of the success of the transplant service and kidney trials network is due to PARF helping to fund the work of rising clinician-scientists.

Prof David Johnson at the PA Hospital

"The foundation has helped us to build our research through several things, including building our research capacity," Prof Johnson said.

"By having cutting edge research, we've been able to attract high-quality researchers who've then become clinician-scientists with our Queensland Kidney Transplant Service programs," Prof Johnson said.

"Key people I can think of who've been attracted to do research projects with us that have been funded in part by the PA Research Foundation include Ross Francis, Dr Andrea Viecelli and Dev Jegatheesan."

A key role of PARF in advancing medical research, which also applies to kidney transplants and kidney related conditions, is in providing initial funding so researchers can explore their ideas and advance their work, such as a current prebiotic trial run by Ph.D. student Sam Chan.

"Sam is one of our up and coming researchers, who has had quite substantial funding from both PA Research Foundation and Metro South Health. He is doing a Ph.D. with us and has some sessions with our service. He's looking specifically now at prebiotics as another way of preventing infections associated with kidney transplantation," Prof Johnson said.

"Sam's trial is looking at an inexpensive, low-cost treatment and patients love things that involve prebiotics or probiotics. They're very attractive to consumers and we've received very favourable encouragement from our consumer advisory board, that that's the sort of thing they want."

"PA Research Foundation can provide us with seed funding to provide proof of concept, which gives us leverage with other institutions. You are very unlikely to get a substantial trial funded without pilot or feasibility work, the PA Research Foundation is critical for that.

Based at the Translational Research Institute (TRI) building on the PAH campus, the University of Queensland's Australasian Kidney Trials Network, is a world leader which continues to push for better outcomes for kidney disease patients.

The network which works with researchers in Canada, China, Malaysia, the UK, and India recently published the results of a trial in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"It wasn't a kidney transplant specific trial but was for all patients with kidney disease, and it showed that a commonly used treatment (allopurinol) to prevent kidney disease progression actually didn't work," Prof Johnson said.

"We highlighted it as low value care, thereby sparing patients from unnecessary medications that cost them money and potential exposure to side effects that aren't providing benefit."

"We're widely acknowledged as the best developed kidney clinical trials network in kidney research in the world. The closest competitor would be the Canadian network, and we collaborate with them now. We've been around for 15 years, and we've developed standard operating procedures that are excellent.

"We can do a one stop shop from start to finish with everything you need for running a trial, and we've got an extensive collaborative network that has built up over the years. We've been able to attract collaborators because we are widely acknowledged as providing high-quality research trials with very impactful results."

Having worked with PARF as far back as 1998 when he received a new investigator grant, Prof Johnson is grateful for the ongoing support the foundation has provided towards kidney disease and kidney transplantation, as well as the opportunities afforded to him and his team by working at the PAH campus.

"Working at PA greatly advances our work, because the Australasian Kidney Trials Network is located in TRI, but more importantly, we benefit academically and intellectually by being able to interact with researchers in a whole range of different diverse fields," Prof Johnson said.

"We've been consistently getting funding for research projects from PA Research Foundation since 1998, not just for transplants, we have got it across the whole spectrum of chronic kidney disease, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, hypertension, and vascular access."