Wesley Medical Research pledges support to the global community to fast track answers

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Front Row L-R: Chief Patron Wesley Medical Research (WMR), the Governor of Queensland, His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC and Dr Claudia Giurgiuman, General Manager WMR Second Row L-R: Professor John Fraser, Director Intensive Care St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, (SAWMH); Professor Mary Louise Fleming, Research Committee Chair WMR and Professor Bala Venkatesh, Director of Intensive Care, The Wesley Hospital Third Row L-R: Associate Professor Gianluigi Li Bassi, Intensive Care Specialist, SAWMH; Dr John Rivers, Cardiologist SAWMH and Professor Steven McPhail, Academic Director, the Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation

Wesley Medical Research, Queensland’s second-oldest medical research institute, pledged its support to the global community to fast track answers to overcome COVID-19, at the official opening of its virtual COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Centre today.

Chief Patron Wesley Medical Research, the Governor of Queensland, His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC officially opened the Centre.

“We have a moral obligation to the global community to provide a holistic research framework to better care for anyone infected or impacted by COVID-19. This will directly benefit our community, our country and our world,” Dr Claudia Giurgiuman, General Manager Wesley Medical Research said.

Dr Giurgiuman added that the world had come to Australia’s aid during the recent Black Summer bushfire season and that it was Australia’s turn to leverage the expertise of its world-renowned Brisbane research leadership team, to give hope to people in the six continents around the world impacted by COVID-19.

“Although the virtual Research Centre was officially opened today, our research team has been working since early April on large multi-site trials across the globe to prevent, diagnose, treat and manage COVID-19. This research is happening right now and will have long-term impact beyond this pandemic,” Dr Giurgiuman said.

A panel discussion at the Centre opening facilitated by one of Australia’s most prominent scientists, Professor Ian Frazer AC, showcased several research objectives including a definitive position on the use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine on healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19; best practices in the management of critically-ill patients via a study of 307 intensive care centres across 49 countries; early intervention strategies and the use of technology in managing the impact of coronavirus on those with pre-existing conditions; and an improved model of care for vulnerable communities via a study of mental health services in the Bowen Basin region.

The discussion highlighted that a research study of over 7000 healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 is being conducted in 40 hospitals across India – the fourth worst-hit nation in the world, where the pandemic is expected to peak in mid-November.

“Reducing infection rates in frontline healthcare workers is essential to maintain uninterrupted services, especially in countries that are struggling to cope with the unexpected demand. Our large clinical trial will provide a definitive platform to determine drugs that are both safe and effective, to protect our most valuable resources,” Professor Bala Venkatesh, Director of Intensive Care at The Wesley Hospital and lead researcher said.

Dr Giurgiuman also emphasised that if Australia were to lead the world in medical research as envisaged by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, urgent funding was required to meet the shortfall. “We need to expand our research portfolio, explore more ideas and find more answers to more quickly combat this virus. Health research has always had high value to society, but this pandemic has made it personal,” she said.

This private and public sector collaboration by the Centre will benefit four critical areas of community need: those on the frontline, critically-ill COVID-19 patients, anyone with pre-existing conditions regardless of whether they are infected by the virus or not, and vulnerable communities at risk of mental health concerns.

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