Our CRE 2023 Summary

2023 has been a huge year for the Centre of Research Excellence in Digestive Health and we would like to round it out by sharing some of our accomplishments to date and our proposed plans beyond 2024, when our five years of CRE funding will conclude.

Since 2020, the CRE in Digestive Health has made important advances in understanding the underlying causes of disorders of gut brain interactions (DGBI). We have identified inflammatory and microbial abnormalities that appear to play a key role in DGBIs and are now considered potential targets for personalised precision treatment approaches. We have also established the resources needed to advance evidence-based, patient-focused holistic approaches that reflect the multifaceted pathophysiology of DGBI and complex patient needs. Our world class biobank for DGBI research contains specimens from more than 16000 DGBI patients and healthy controls, GI symptom data from over 63,000 patients, and a unique collection of microbiome datasets and tissue samples preserved to bring these microbes to life via state-of-the-art culture-based methods. We have also developed a suite of validated clinical tools for measuring symptoms and a ‘diet microbiome atlas’ platform to analyse and correlate dietary, microbiome and biobank participant data. In preparing to evaluate our CRE, we have collated data on our research impacts, and they are summarised here:

Research achievements:

Our CRE has been recognised with 15 national and 55 state-level awards for contributions to research and clinical practice. The team has a combined track record that is exceptional by international standards. In the first four years, our CRE produced over 350 peer reviewed publications on gastrointestinal conditions, of which half involved at least two CRE affiliates, and more than half included international co-authors. Our peer-reviewed publications have been published in the highest impact journals such as the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine. A recent bibliometric publication identified Professors Talley and Holtmann to be among the five leading researchers world-wide in DGBIs. Our investigators have published >30 invited reviews in the past 5 years and received more than 50 international invitations to present in recent years. Examples include Digestive Diseases Week, Asian Pacific Digestive Week, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Australian Gastroenterology Week.

Our pioneering research into molecular factors, inflammation and small intestinal dysbiosis in DGBI has been paradigm shifting for DGBI diagnosis, treatment and management. Our investigators have contributed to development of new clinical guidelines as well as tools, diagnostic devices, patents, industry funding and consultancy.

Communicating research:

The CRE collaborated in the delivery of four community seminars (1809 live-stream, 1623 YouTube views) and a World IBD Day video (>3000 views). Our investigator team and affiliates have conducted 12 consumer group seminars since 2020 and raised awareness about digestive health via the hugely successful ‘Poo Palace’ for children at Newcastle Show (>1000 visits annually) and National Science Week workshops (200 children annually). Our website (300 views/month) promotes activities, aims, current studies and treatment trials, employment and study opportunities, and resources and publications in the CRE. This complements our successful social media presence, with 850 tweets, 1324 twitter mentions annually and over 30,000 followers of our researchers.

Consumer involvement: 

Our DGBI reference group, established through the CRE, has provided input and guidance on the importance of our research focus areas and specific input into the research program design. We particularly rely on and appreciate our Advisory Board members. some of whom represent those with lived experience with gastrointestinal conditions.

Researcher development:

In the last four years alone, our CRE has supported over 30 HDR students,  25 Honours students, 16 clinician researchers and 47 postdoctoral researchers across 10 sites. These students, clinicians and postdocs have gone on to receive six nationally competitive grants, are authors on over 300 peer reviewed publications and their research has been presented at more that10 international conferences. We have built an exceptional track record within the CRE with 25% of our HDR students being clinicians (e.g. medical, dietetics, pharmacy).

Pilot research funding:

This has been a hugely successful CRE initiative with 12 pilot grants (total $360,000) awarded since 2020 forming the basis of three nationally competitive grant applications, five PhD related studies, seven publications and 15 conference presentations.

Our proposed plans beyond 2024 involve transitioning to a new CREwith the aim of initiating a paradigm shift in the management and treatment of DGBIs. If funded, this transformational and translational CRE will harness and apply our resources and understanding of DGBIs into care pathways that deliver real treatment gains for patients. In  doing so, we aim to train the next generation of a multi-professional workforce of clinicians and scientists and to inform policies and guidelines that change clinical practice across the health system.

In sharing our achievements and exciting plans for the future, the investigator team from the CRE in Digestive Health wish our readers, supporters, subscribers, consumers and our advisory board the very best for the festive season and for the year ahead.