Witnessing the benefits of translational research for people living with cystic fibrosis

25 May 2022

Professor Scott Bell has dedicated his career to understanding lung infections and improving the lives of people living with cystic fibrosis (CF). Scott’s research is based on clinical problems and establishing the evidence to improve practice and clinical care guidelines. So, it’s no surprise that he’s also a long-time advocate for better translational research in Queensland.

Scott’s ‘whole of career’ highlight is the improvements in health outcomes for people with CF. “Most people with CF are now living well into adulthood, and the average median survival has doubled,” he said. “We’ve seen therapies targeting defects in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), which will likely change the disease in coming decades. But CF continues to limit survival and quality of life, and results in a huge burden of care.”

Scott recently co-led with Dr Felix Ratjen the development of a global blueprint, The Lancet Commission “The future of cystic fibrosis care: a global perspective.” Working with 38 experts, the team highlighted the challenges of CF care, the complications arising as patients age and the opportunities for global progress.

As for state progress, Scott is keen to see translational research improve in Queensland. He was part of the steering committee at Mayne Health Partners when it merged with Diamantina Health Partners to form Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners (now Health Translation Queensland) in 2014. Scott was an inaugural Board Member representing Metro North Health. He remains on the Health Translation Queensland Board, and is now CEO of TRI.

“Translational research is so important, but it is not an easy journey, and it requires many stakeholders across different systems all committed to making it work,” Scott said. “I see HTQ as the connector at a macro level, working to improve connections and engagement and showcase the potential of collaboration across the network to improve health outcomes.

“We have to be realistic about what HTQ can achieve with a small team. The HTQ health and medical research funding analysis is an example of where HTQ can add value. This analysis shows that we have great translational research potential here in Queensland, but we’re not capitalising on it for various reasons,” Scott said.

“We need more clinician-scientists, who are willing and supported to call Queensland home, and better ways to connect them with research opportunities. We also need to improve our research ecosystem and encourage high-quality and relevant research.”

Professor Scott Bell is a Senior Thoracic Physician at the Prince Charles Hospital, CEO at the Translational Research Institute (TRI) and Group Leader, Lung Bacteria Laboratory at The University of Queensland’s Children’s Health Research Centre.

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