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QIMR researcher awarded by the Australian Academy of Science

Dr Manuel Ferreira has been awarded the prestigious Ruth Stephens Gani Medal by the Australian Academy of Science for his research of human genetics.

QIMR Director, Professor Frank Gannon said the Ruth Stephens Gani Medal tops off a big year for Dr Ferreira, a senior researcher in QIMR’s Genetic Epidemiology laboratory.

“In October, Dr Ferreira was awarded a Career Development Fellowship by the National Health and Medical Research Council,” Professor Gannon said.

“Dr Ferreira also leads the largest Australian study of asthma genetics – the Australian Asthma Genetics Consortium – and his findings from this study were recently published in the prestigious Lancet journal.”

In this study, Dr Ferreira and the Consortium compared the DNA of thousands of asthma patients with that of individuals who do not suffer from asthma.

The study identified a gene – the interleukin-6 receptor – that has a more active version and a less active version. The more active version is more commonly found in asthmatics and contributes to inflammation.

These findings suggest that a drug that reduces the activity of this gene – currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis – may be effective in asthma.

Dr Ferreira said although it is too early to tell whether a safe and effective therapy will indeed emerge in the near future, results from this study provide key insights into the complex mechanisms that cause asthma.

“Receiving the Ruth Stephens Gani Medal is a great honour and further motivation to continue my research into the genetics of common diseases that impact so many Australians, such as asthma,” Dr Ferreira said.

The Ruth Stephens Gani Medal is awarded to researchers no more than 40 years of age for distinguished research in human genetics, including clinical, molecular, population and epidemiological genetics and cytogenetics.

The award is made annually and restricted to candidates who normally reside in Australia and for research conducted mainly in Australia.