Young scientist award for arthritis researcher

Young scientist award for arthritis researcher

Menzies arthritis researcher Dr Dawn Aitken has topped off a hugely successful year by being named the Tasmanian Young STEM Researcher of the Year.

Dr Aitken applied for and was offered three competitive mid-career fellowships in the 2017-18 financial year, including a four-year NHMRC/Medical Research Future Fund Career Development Fellowship. She was also awarded her first NHMRC Project Grant as Chief Investigator. Through this $1,309,503 grant Dr Aitken is leading a multi-centre randomised controlled trial evaluating an anti-inflammatory drug (that is not currently approved in Australia) to treat knee osteoarthritis.

Dr Aitken had 13 papers accepted or published in the 2017-18 financial year, including a lead-author paper which was the first study to trial a particular rheumatoid arthritis drug for hand osteoarthritis.

She was awarded the 2018 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Rising Star Award, and the 2018 Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society Award for the five best papers published in the past five years in the field of bone and mineral research.

Dr Aitken also led the development of new collaborations between Menzies, the Tasmanian Health Service and the Royal Hobart Hospital to improve the way osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions are managed in Tasmania.

“This is very generous recognition and I feel really fortunate to be given this honour on top of what has already been a wonderful year for me,’’ Dr Aitken said.

“What I’m really looking forward to now is consolidating the work I have under way, in collaboration with others, in seeking better treatments and prevention for osteoarthritis.

“We have no cure for this disease at the moment, and it affects something like 2.2 million Australians, rising to 3.1 million by 2030. It’s really important that we stay focused on achieving a better quality of life for people with osteoarthritis, and where possible, on preventing the onset of the disease.”