IHMRI researchers share how they have adapted and what have they learnt from the experience.

COVID-19 has caused widespread disruption across the nation and health and medical researchers have not been immune to the restrictions. As an essential service, the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) has remained operational throughout the pandemic, and researchers say the lockdown has given them some new insights.

For IHMRI immunologist, Professor Ronald Sluyter from UOW’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience, Molecular Horizons, says IHMRI’s technical officers have shown great professionalism in keeping the laboratories open.

“IHMRI has done a great job in ensuring the safety of all staff and for me personally, the pandemic has made me think about what’s important in life and the critical need for research.”

But he says despite everyone’s best efforts to continue working, there have been some unavoidable impacts on research output.

“We’ve been really mindful of the health and welfare of our team during the pandemic, and some supplies have not been available which has restricted lab work for the students. Some of the team have been focussing on data analysis which we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do previously,” added Professor Sluyter.

Operations at IHMRI are slowly returning to normal as COVID-19 restrictions ease. IHMRI CEO, Distinguished Professor David Adams says by managing hygiene and social distancing restrictions along with staggering staff hours, IHMRI’s labs have remained open and research projects largely unaffected.

“Thanks to meticulous planning and the dedication of our staff and affiliates, it has allowed our important work to continue with minimal disruption,” he said.

For Dr Natalie Matosin, from UOW’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience, says working from home has afforded her time to breath.

“I’ve been able to focus on writing, planning for the future and consolidating previous findings,” she said.

Over the last few months, Dr Matosin has been using online video calls to meet with her lab and students once a week.

“A lot of conferences have also moved online and many research scientists use Twitter regularly which enables us to all stay connected and share the experience with solidarity.”

“COVID has really highlighted the fact that health and medical research is a matter of life and death.

The whole experience has also brought to the forefront the importance of having well-funded, large international teams working on important research questions such as how to prevent and stop COVID,” added Dr Matosin.

Distinguished Professor David Adams says the pandemic reinforces the need for well-funded health and medical projects to maintain an international standard of research in Australia.

“We are going to start to see the flow on effects of the medical needs of people who were infected with Coronavirus. Whilst Government measures to slow the curve in Australia have been largely successful, those impacted by the virus may face ongoing health issues. The biggest health risk could be cardiovascular issues for patients,” he said.

Professor Adams was recently awarded a NSW Cardiovascular Senior Researcher Grant for his project “Role of the intrinsic cardiac nervous system in myocardial ischaemia (decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle) and arrhythmias”.

The grant will also allow him to train the next generation of cardiovascular researchers in the field of studying the heart’s intrinsic nervous system.

 

Media contact

Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator

m: 0417 044 867

e: louisenegline@ihmri.org.au

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