June 15, 2016

Lung Foundation Australia announces two new IPF PhD scholarships

Lung Foundation Australia has announced the winners of two new PhD scholarships worth $180,000 over three years to increase our understanding of a rare and devastating disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF).

Through the generous support of the Wilson family, together with the Pulmonary Fibrosis Consortium, Lung Foundation Australia is offering seven leveraged PhD scholarships worth $90,000 each to help put IPF under the research spotlight to be awarded in the coming years .

IPF patient David Wilson, after whom the PhD scholarships are named, said research in Australia was woefully underfunded and he wanted to support local programs for local people.

“I don’t know what caused my IPF and there aren’t any answers for me,” Mr Wilson said.

“If, by supporting this research, I can help others find the answers I don’t have, it will be great result,” he said.

“It is a personal thing for me to help others.”

Lung Foundation Australia CEO Heather Allan said it was vital research into rarer lung diseases like IPF was adequately funded.

“This is about funding research to save lives,” Mrs Allan said.

“IPF causes persistent and progressive scarring of the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs where the amount of scar tissue irreversibly increases over time, restricting how the lungs can expand, until the thickening caused by this scarring becomes so bad insufficient oxygen enters the blood stream,” she said.

“While the rate at which the disease progresses is highly variable, with some patients remaining stable for many years while others getting rapidly worse, it is inevitably fatal without a lung transplant.”

The first two David Wilson PhD Scholarship in IPF, each worth $30,000 a year for three years, were awarded in June.

Adelle Jee from the University of Sydney is tackling how IF behaves, its prognosis and if there are markers to predict deterioration.

The research aims to deliver practical, clinical outcomes by comparing IPF patients with another group of patients with interstitial pneumonia with autoimmune features (IPAF) to examine blood samples, breathing and tissue samples to develop markers and possible ways to determine the cause of IPF.

The second funded project will be conducted by the University of Newcastle’s David Walters and will examine the role of fibroblasts in strengthening the lungs and why they malfunction in conditions like IPF.

This research will target the process that causes the thickening of the lungs in IPF to initially stop the disease from worsening and eventually hopes to possibly be able to reverse it.


Key Facts

  • At least 1 in 4 Australians has a chronic respiratory disease[1].
  • 14% of all deaths in Australia are caused by lung disease, including pneumonia, influenza, asthma, COPD and lung cancer[2].
  • Although respiratory illnesses affect 29 per cent of Australians and costs the health system an estimated $4.5 billion per year, research in this area receives little funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) – Australia’s lead health research funding body.
  • Respiratory conditions are amongst the most commonly managed problems in general practice (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).
  • Lung Foundation Australia has been trying to fill the gap over the 25 years by:
  • directly investing almost $11 million in research
  • generating an additional $7.5 million through lung cancer clinical trials
  • committing almost a quarter of our total expenditure to research
  • Over the past 10 years over $10 million of research funding has been generated through the work of these platforms, including:
    • Several NHMRC and ARC grants
    • Industry funded research
    • PhD funding
    • Philanthropic funded research
  • By 2020 we want to increase this funding in research to more than $5 million as well as significantly growing the value of our leveraged support.


[1] ABS 2015. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014–15 . ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001

[2] Lung Disease in Australia, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, 2015