The Heart Foundation’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Professor Gregory Dusting has developed lifesaving cardiovascular drugs over the last three decades. His research has virtually defined internationally the Australian contribution in the general area of cardiovascular pharmacology over many years.
Professor Dusting says he couldn’t have done it without help from the Heart Foundation who have continuously funded his research for over 35 years.
He was interested in doing research into cardiovascular disease because ‘it was very big’ even in the sixties.
“People were dying left, right and centre with heart diseases, especially heart attacks, it was certainly the number one killer. It took people very young and suddenly and unlike today it was not easy to revive them. People who suffer heart attacks these days are dealt with very quickly and depending on how big it is, generally survive them. In those days it was really the peak of cardiovascular disease. So finding something that would stop that happening was really big business,” Professor Dusting said.
It was difficult to get funding and he was grateful when the Heart Foundation chose him as its first Senior Research Fellow. The funding, he says, gave him a boost in his career that he needed at the time.
“As a young researcher, it is always difficult to get funding because you don’t have sufficient credentials to call yourself an independent research person. The Heart Foundation was and is still really good with supporting young researchers and new ideas that other institutions are not ready to support.”
The Fellowship took him to an overseas lab where he joined a team who were on the verge of discovering a new hormone to treat heart attacks.
“We discovered a new natural substance called prostacyclin. People thought they were going to make a marvellous new drug to stop heart attacks and strokes. It sparked a whole lot of exciting new research throughout the world.”
With the help of the Heart Foundation, Professor Dusting is now working on a new drug that will help the muscle repair after a heart attack.
Professor Dusting admits he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for funding from the Heart Foundation.
“I couldn’t have done without it. I feel that already we have lost a whole generation of researchers in the cardiovascular area especially because it’s not as well funded as other areas like cancer, yet it is equally as bad in terms of loss of lives and livelihoods.”
“There’s a perception out there that we’ve beaten cardiovascular disease because people don’t die so readily from immediate heart attack. We have become very good at saving people from dying of a heart attack but that doesn’t mean we have beaten it. Women especially suffer from heart disease later in life, which is still something poorly recognised in the community. ”
He is full of praise for the Heart Foundation’s research program.
“Over the years, even though I started to also score NHRMC grants, I found the Heart Foundation was particularly supportive of new ideas. They were not big grants but it’s those small ones that really made a difference to fill a gap in cardiovascular research and got a lot of young researchers like me started.”