Genes, germs and growing old gracefully at World Science Festival

With uniquely individual DNA and different life circumstances each person has their own distinct health journey through life, and Griffith health experts are at the forefront of innovation to personalise the healthcare response.

While we all hope to grow old gracefully, our genes can help or hinder us as we encounter different germs and diseases along the way and eventually our bodies break down, whether we like it or not!

Dr Peta-Anne Zimmerman

World Science Festival Brisbane (20-24 March) spotlights the amazing new world of precision and personalised medicine and the modern age fight against fast-travelling superbugs and pandemics that calls for us to be ‘global citizens’.

Griffith University researchers are at the forefront of developing personalised health innovations that harness our own genes to fight chronic and infectious diseases and that tailor injury prevention, treatment and rehabilitation as we age, as well as interventions to help prevent the global killer infections that can stop us dead in our tracks.

Malaria Researcher and Acting Director of the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD)Professor Kathy Andrews will be joined by Griffith international infection prevention and control expert Dr Peta-Anne Zimmerman, who consults to the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) for a signature event:Pandemics & Epidemics: Preparing for the Ultimate Travel Bug (March 22).

Professor Nigel McMillan

Cancer Biologist Professor Nigel McMillan will join the debate about gene therapies at a Salon event — Tackling Immunity: Best Friend, Worst Enemy(23 March),exploring the latest technology that allows scientists to edit our genes to fight off our own specific diseases and create our own targeted anti-bodies.

Emerging personalised medicine technology will also be explored as part of the Making it Great — Celebrating Queensland Invention (21 March), with bio-mechanical engineer Professor David Lloyd offering insight into leading-edge research creating ‘digital twins’ to personalise training and injury prevention, customise surgery and rehabilitation, and design and create bespoke tissue implants and devices using the latest 3D printing technology.

Dr Zimmerman, who coordinates Australia’s only Masters level infection prevention and control graduate program, says we will only control infectious diseases if people are prepared to be ‘global citizens’.

Professor David Lloyd

“Humans, animals and the environment we’re all in this together, we can’t isolate ourselves; for example we can’t kill all the bats because of Hendra virus,” Dr Zimmerman says.

The ‘One Health’ approach is the foundation for Griffith’s popular massive open online course which made its debut in 2018 and will be offered free again from March 25 through FutureLearn.

“Called ‘Plagues, Pestilence & Pandemics — Are You Ready?’, it’s basically a taster about the history of infectious diseases, as well as simple ideas about how to be global citizens by recognising travel as an issue, getting vaccinations, appropriate hand hygiene and the ‘one health’ philosophy.”