Advancing health outcomes through collaborative and targeted research

Whether you’re lecturing in a historic UQ building, doing the rounds in a busy hospital ward or juggling international time zones for Skype meetings, everyone with a UQ affiliation is connected by the common goal of creating change.

To make real change for patients and focus on health outcomes, collaboration is essential. Some of the Faculty’s leading scientists have come together to expand their research as part of the inaugural Health Outcomes Programs.

Announced for the first time in 2017, HOPs represents a strategic approach to Faculty research, in collaboration with hospital and health partners. First to be funded under the initiative are two projects tackling the key health challenges of antimicrobial use and skin cancer.

Professors Jason Roberts and David Paterson lead the project addressing the poor outcomes from infection in critically ill patients through optimisation of rapid diagnostics and antimicrobial dosing.

“Our research team will use whole genome sequencing to rapidly determine which bacteria are causing infection so the most suitable drug and dose combination can be given,” Professor Roberts explains. “Once the process is established, the research team will test it in the clinic and determine its benefits to individual patients and the health system.”

Professor Jason Roberts

With the HOPS initiatives till in its early days the team is feeling positive about the opportunity to work collaboratively toward clinical outcomes.

“In our team we have six individuals who are specialists in their own fields, mostly working in parallel but through this scheme are combining their expertise for a single end result, which we believe could be transformational,” Professor Roberts says.

“We rely on one another’s expertise, knowing that none of us could get to the final outcome on our own.”

Professor Jason Roberts

Microbiologists at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences will be leading the work that increases the timeliness of whole genome sequencing techniques. Simultaneously at the Centre for Clinical Research, researchers will be validating the results of the whole genome sequencing for determining the best antibiotic for specific bacteria causing infections whilst other team members are testing dosing software to optimise dosing regimens.

“Our collaborators at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences bring essential knowledge and skills to our program,” Professor Roberts says. “HOPs is an opportunity to work with experts across the Faculty and other parts of UQ, who otherwise might be working independently.”

The outcomes could be life-saving.

“We want to improve early diagnosis of infections in critically ill patients and hope that we will be able to determine the best drug and dose for a patient within 24 or 48 hours,” Professor Roberts says. “At the moment it can take up to 72 hours, if at all.”

Professor Jason Roberts

HOPs supports very specific and targeted programs of research addressing an identified health problem and will produce a specific and visible benefit.

The flagship Faculty program will provide operational support over five years to progress worthy world-class research. Selection follows a competitive application process engaging interstate reviewers.

A study examining high incidence and mortality for melanoma is the focus of the second HOPs project, led by Professor Peter Soyer of UQ’s Diamantina Institute and Professor David Whiteman of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

High risk participants will be screened using 3D total body photography and mobile teledermoscopy in the context of the Australian healthcare system, and results will be used to drive evidence-based changes to clinical practice.

The project includes collaborators from QUT, QIMR Berghofer and UQ’s Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Business, Economics & Law.

The Faculty looks forward to supporting more collaborative projects in the future as UQ Medicine works to ensure all institutes and health partners work together to achieve incredible patient outcomes.

Professor Peter Soyer of the Dermatology Research Centre will lead the second HOPs project with Professor David Whiteman. The Dermatology Research Centre receives generous philanthropic support from Epiderm, Trevor and Judith St Baker, Merchant Charitable Foundation, Queensland Institute of Dermatology, and Leo Foundation.