ADRI Newsletter December 2022
Wishing you the best for the festive season.
This year we welcomed a new leadership team, stewarded crucial projects, engaged with Government at local, state and federal levels, completed grants, continued to provide dedicated support to patients and families impacted by mesothelioma and expanded the scope of our work to encompass silica and dust disease.
Here are the highlights of our work in 2022.
January: Grant season begins
January kept our Finance Manager, Ross Flemons, busy number crunching important grant applications to the Dust Diseases Board. Two grants were ultimately successful, enabling us to a) build an education platform for nurses to learn about mesothelioma and b) to progress to a pre-clinical trial examining the impact and benefits of the Manuka compound (Study of Leptospermum polygalifolium extract in mesothelioma oras. )
February: A/Prof Sonja Klebe joins the team
In February, our new Research Director A/Prof Sonja Klebe joined the team on secondment from Flinders University. With incredible credentials, skill, and passion for mesothelioma treatment, Sonja’s vision and stewardship of crucial research and projects will drive ADRI’s vision to ultimately find a cure for asbestos-related diseases. You can read more about Sonja here.
March: Lab Life in the Fast Lane
Our research team are laser focussed on developing better treatment options for asbestos-related diseases, and ultimately finding a cure for mesothelioma. One of the innovative projects – thanks to funding by the Dust Diseases Board – is the development of a novel 3D model for drug screening in mesothelioma. This will assist in accelerating the clinical implementation of novel drug therapies for the treatment of mesothelioma. An advancement on the current drug screening systems which rely on a 2D culture system, we anticipate that these innovative 3D models can be utilised to screen, identify and characterise improved novel drug treatment regimens. The ultimate aim is to benefit mesothelioma patients upon successful implementation in the clinic. This project is being driven by A/Prof Sonja Klebe and our dedicated team of researchers Dr Ben Johnson and Dr Huaikai (Peter) Shi, supported by our Technical Officer Ling Zhuang and Junior Laboratory Assistant Aimee Stenekes.
You can read more about our research projects here.
April: Kim Brislane appointed as CEO
Our leadership team was complete in April with the formal appointment of Kim Brislane as CEO (Acting CEO since January). With over 25 years’ experience in the not-for-profit, private, and public sectors, Kim brings enormous expertise in driving high-impact projects, creating sustainable visionary campaigns and cementing organisational strategy. She’s passionate about ensuring the best treatment and diagnosis of mesothelioma, dust and asbestos-related diseases and sharing our expertise with our global community through our WHO Collaborating Centre work. Read more about Kim here.
May: Thanks to our wonderful volunteers
In May we celebrated National Volunteer Week with the theme Better Together. Jenny Weismantel and Jo Mezzapica are invaluable members of the ADRI team – providing ongoing support with research projects, as well as administration support. Thank you both!
You can read more about Jenny and Jo here.
June: Friends – old and new
As soon as the election ended, Sally Sitou MP, the newly elected Federal Member for Reid, paid us a visit. She acutely understood the importance of our work at ADRI – and the continued risks of asbestos to the community at large.
In June, the Signorelli Foundation, one of our most committed supporters, presented ADRI with $100,000 during a private morning tea at Admiralty House hosted by ADRI Patrons Their Excellencies the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd.) and Mrs Hurley. This support goes directly towards enabling our researchers to continue to find new and innovative ways to treat mesothelioma and is testimony to the unwavering commitment of the Signorelli Foundation to address asbestos-related diseases head on.
We welcomed our newly formed Research Committee which, as the steering group for all scientific work, advises our Board and our Research Director. The National Committee brings together experts of national and international renown, and we thank Professor Nick Pavlakis, Professor Christine Jenkins, Professor Steven Clarke, A/Professor Maija Kohonen Corish, Professor David Roder, Dr Scott Fisher, and Dr Juliet Burn for their wisdom and support.
Literally goals were kicked for ADRI in 2022. A-League Football Team Western Sydney Wanderers and Turner Freeman Lawyers joined forces to support our work. For each goal scored by the WSW during the season, $500 was donated to ADRI by Turner Freeman, meaning a wonderful cheque for $15,000 in July.
August: The work of our Patient Support Team
Our dedicated Mesothelioma Patient Support Service actively works with over 300 families impacted by mesothelioma. Working with established professional agencies, health professionals and local communities across NSW to provide clinical information and support, our registered nurses bring years of experience to this complex work.
Our incredible team offer one-on-one phone support, as well as organising meetings and events throughout the year to bring our patients, carers and bereaved together, because they understand the power of connection amongst people who share lived experience.
Read more about our Support Service here.
September: The beginning of a vital new educational platform
This month, we welcomed registered nurse Kate Butler to the team. She will drive our ambitious project to create a comprehensive one-stop resource tool for nurses – the Nurses Education and Resource Package. This will focus on educating nurses on mesothelioma and the crucial role nurses play in caring for patients. Please read more about the project and Kate here.
October: Collaboration and connection
The ADRI team spent a very productive few days of collaboration, discussion, and planning with Ministers in Canberra to discuss the national impact of asbestos and dust related diseases on Australians, and to add ADRI’s voice to the conversation.
ADRI Patrons Their Excellencies the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd.) and Mrs Hurley, hosted an intimate reception at Admiralty House. It was a wonderful way to bring our team, supporters and patients together – to celebrate our joint efforts – and we deeply appreciate Their Excellencies’ patronage, hospitality, and dedicated support.
November: Expansion and awareness
The ADRI Biobank is crucial to our biomedical (preclinical) research which focuses on a variety of molecular and biological techniques that utilise the invaluable biological specimens stored in the ADRI Biobank. To take on the management of this crucial resource, we were delighted to welcome Virginia James to the team. You can read more about Virginia here.
On Friday 18 November, representatives from our team attended the Asbestos Diseases Foundation Australia (ADFA) Information Day which profiled ADFA’s ongoing work to support patients and families living with asbestos-related diseases. Kim Brislane, CEO, Dr Huaikai (Peter) Shi and A/Prof Steven Kao had the opportunity to showcase ADRI’s work and what life in the lab looks like. It was also a great opportunity to raise awareness of this national issue with The Hon. Ed Husic MP, Minister for Industry and Science, who was also in attendance.
As the WHO Collaborating Centre for the Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases, ADRI Research Director Sonja Klebe and CEO Kim Brislane attended The Fourth Regional Forum of WHO Collaborating Centres in the Western Pacific, held in Cambodia. It was an incredible opportunity to learn more about regional initiatives and ensure we are forging collaborations with our partners to address asbestos and dust disease in developing countries. We will now put our plans into real action across Australia and the globe.
December: Let’s go 2023
From the ADRI team, we wish you a happy, safe, and healthy Christmas and festive season with family and friends. Thank you sincerely for your support which enables us to continue our work – we cannot wait to get back to it in the new year. We look forward to sharing more stories with you then! Be safe everyone!
Did You Know?
The ancient Greeks named the mineral asbestos, meaning inextinguishable. The Greek geographer Strabo and the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder both reported a sickness of the lungs in the slaves who wove asbestos into cloth. Despite this, the use of asbestos continued – take a historical dive here