August 9, 2018  Print

Westmead Institute’s Dr Sujitha Thavapalachandran has been awarded the 2018 Ralph Reader Basic Science Prize.

Dr Qian and Dr Thavapalachandran with their awards. 

Dr Thavapalachandran – a post-doctoral researcher in our Cardiac Regeneration Laboratory, a clinical fellow at the Westmead Hospital, and a PhD student with the University of Sydney – won the award for her research investigating new ways of repairing damaged hearts.

She is testing whether platelet derived growth factor – a protein that regulates cell growth – can repair heart tissue following a heart attack.

“We are using large animal studies to investigate whether this protein can repair cardiac damage following a heart attack and restoring heart function,” Dr Thavapalachandran said.

“Our findings indicate that this growth factor promotes scar healing and reduces rhythm abnormalities after a heart attack.”

Dr Thavapalachandran’s interest in cardiac research comes from her work as a cardiologist.

After seeing the limited treatment options available to patients with end stage heart disease, she was encouraged to begin her research.

“Despite current available therapy for patients with heart failure, the mortality rate still remains high”.

“For patients with end-stage heart failure, the only curative option is a heart transplant. With limited transplant donors, new treatment options are required”.

“We are excited by the possible therapeutic application of the growth factor to repair the heart following a heart attack and we ultimately hope to progress our research to clinical studies,” Dr Thavapalachandran said.

The Ralph Reader Prize is one of the most prestigious awards in cardiovascular research in Australasia.

This is back-to-back wins for the Westmead Institute and the Westmead Hospital, with Dr Loan Le winning the Ralph Reader Basic Science Prize in 2017, making it two consecutive years of winning the national prestigious prize.

Dr Thavapalachandran acknowledged and thanked her supervisor Associate Professor James Chong for his contribution to her research.

“I am thankful for his mentorship and guidance with my PhD and the Ralph Reader prize”.

“It’s a great honour to win this prize. I am excited that this prize will pave the next steps to offering this therapy to applying this to help patients with heart failure to live longer with better quality of life,” Dr Thavapalachandran concluded.

Westmead Hospital cardiologist Dr Pierre Qian won the Clinical Research Prize for his work developing a medical device that targets renal nerve connections to reduce blood pressure.

This is the first time in the history of the awards that both prizes have been awarded to candidates from the same hospital.

Congratulations Dr Thavapalachandran and Dr Qian – we looking forward to more great achievements from you in the future.