Sydney academics recognised for cardiovascular research excellence

Two University of Sydney researchers who are taking a unique and innovative approach to the study of cardiovascular health have each been awarded the Ministerial Award for Cardiovascular Research Excellence.

Dr Ju’s work has been motivated by his family’s health experiences.

Dr Lining (Arnold) Ju received the prestigious award from NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard at the NSW Cardiovascular Research Network’s annual showcase and awards ceremony in Sydney.

Dr Ju’s research focuses on how the mechanical force involved in blood flow can influence the behaviour of platelets, and in turn, the formation of potentially fatal blood clots in the cardiovascular system. This is particularly important for people with diabetes, who often have a resistance to conventional anti-clotting drugs.

In one recent study, published in the journal Nature Materials, Dr Ju and his colleagues at the Heart Research Institute used a ‘microfluidic channel’ to mimic the narrowing of vessels that cause blood clots. This allowed Dr Ju to observe the activation of platelets at the cellular level.

Dr Ju’s work is partly motivated by his father, who suffered a heart attack after his main coronary artery became blocked by a blood clot.

“I have always been fascinated by the universal forces that make things move and behave the way they do, but after my father survived his heart attack, I became convinced that my research should solve real-world problems,” he said.

Three other relatives of Dr Ju’s have lost their lives to heart disease.

The ultimate goal of my research is to save lives through the development of new ‘mechano-medicines’ to detect and target disease markers faster, cheaper and more effectively than current technology allows.

Dr Lining Ju

Professor Figtree is passionately committed to improving cardiovascular health through her bench-to-bedside research program.

Minister Hazzard also presented the 2019 Ministerial Award for Cardiovascular Research Excellence to Gemma Figtree, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney and an interventional cardiologist at Royal North Shore Hospital.

“I feel very honoured to receive this prestigious award, really on behalf of my whole team. This is terrific recognition of the hard work, discoveries and clinical translation that we have achieved,” said Professor Figtree.

Professor Figtree is passionately committed to improving cardiovascular health through her bench-to-bedside research program. She has a particular interest in the causes of heart attacks in patients who were not previously deemed at risk, and recently received a NSW Government grant – as part of its $150 million investment into cardiovascular research – to support this work.

In addition, Professor Figtree is heavily involved in the cardiovascular research community, including advocating for funding and the Heart Foundation. As President of the Cardiovascular Research Alliance, she led a successful pitch to secure $220 million in federal government funding for a 10-year Mission for Cardiovascular Health, and she has been appointed chair of the expert advisory panel overseeing the Mission.

Minister Hazzard congratulated Dr Ju and Professor Figtree on winning their awards, “Dr Ju and Professor Figtree are among NSW’s most gifted researchers and clinicians in cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease and these awards recognise their outstanding contribution,” he said.

“The NSW Government makes it a priority to support research that will improve health outcomes across the state. The NSW Cardiovascular Research Network has been at the forefront of delivering high impact research to help relieve the burden of cardiovascular disease in our community.

“I look forward to hearing about the innovative work that our research community is producing in this important field.”

Head of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, Professor Stefan Williams, said Dr Ju’s research was an outstanding example of the positive impact engineers have on modern medicine.

“Congratulations to Arnold Ju, a recent Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) fellowship recipient who will be joining the new School of Biomedical Engineering this spring. Arnold is a shining example of an engineer who is making a positive contribution to Australia’s health and medical sector,” he concluded.