Professor PJ Wormald awarded an NHMRC Investigator Grant

May 21, 2020

Congratulations to Professor PJ Wormald (ENT Surgery) on being awarded one of only 12 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grants in South Australia. 237 Leadership and Emerging Leadership Fellows received funding in the Investigator Grant scheme, the largest NHMRC scheme. Professor Wormald’s 5 year Leadership grant, valued at $2.36M, is titled “From bench to bedside: A new treatment for Chronic Rhinosinusitis” and commences in January 2021.

With this Investigator Grant Professor Wormald will continue to provide world-class surgical sciences training and lead his innovative translational research program. His research program addresses the complex knowledge gaps and urgent clinical needs that exist in the field of otolaryngology, specifically chronic upper airway inflammation or Chronic Rhinosinusitis (CRS). CRS affects around 10% of Western populations including almost all cystic fibrosis patients and 22% of asthmatics. In this project, his team will explore the role of bacterial biofilms in shaping the microbiome and immune response. Knowledge gained through this program will support the development of individualised therapeutic protocols with the real potential for better treatment outcomes for these difficult-to-treat CRS patients.

Another focus of Professor Wormald’s research team is wound healing. His continuing research activities will include translational studies aimed at (i) developing Chitogel-based products for use to improve wound healing after surgery (ii) developing a unique delivery device for optimal performance of medications in the sinus cavities.

In 1998 Professor Peter-John Wormald was appointed as the inaugural Chairman of the new Department of Otolaryngology at The University of Adelaide and continues in this role today. His high-profile clinical department, based at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, now includes a large research group that focuses on the pathophysiology of Chronic Rhinosinusitis (CRS), wound healing and the creation and validation of novel surgical techniques, instruments and therapies for sinus disease and skull base surgery (for example, over 30 surgical instrument sets bear the Wormald name). Professor Wormald’s research led to the invention of Chitogel, a new surgical hydrogel, that has received FDA (and MEDSAFE) approval and is now on the US and NZ market (EMA and TGA approval imminent). The gel limits scarring and improves wound healing after sinus surgery, reducing the need for revision surgery, thereby lowering associated health care costs. An enhanced version of the gel is also in preclinical development for use in back and abdominal surgery. Research and use of Chitogel has led to the establishment of two start-up companies, investment of more than $10 million from venture capital funds to establish a manufacturing plant in New Zealand and securing a distribution agreement with the medical device company Medtronic. To date more than 10,000 Chitogel Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Kits have been sold in the US.

Professor PJ Wormald’s work as a rhinology and skull base surgeon and leader of a multidisciplinary translational research program has redefined the management of sinus and skull base diseases and impacts the quality and cost of healthcare globally. He was the first to introduce the revolutionary practice of endoscopic transnasal skull base surgery to Australia. This approach impacts post-surgical outcomes as it avoids brain damage, disfiguring the patient’s skull and is more cost effective than the transcranial or microscopic approach. He has taught these surgical techniques to ENT surgeons and neurosurgeons around the world through numerous hands-on courses and through the sale of more than 25,000 copies of his best-selling “Endoscopic Sinus Surgery” book that also has been translated into many languages.

Professor Wormald has mentored the next generation of surgeon scientists and translational medical researchers in the field of otolaryngology, including emerging leaders in rhinology who visit from around the world to spend a year undertaking clinical fellowships and/or research with his group. He has also been the president of the Australia and New Zealand Rhinologic Society, and provides advice for various clinical and industry groups.

Over his career Professor Wormald has received numerous awards, has a research prize named after him, and was elected as a fellow to the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences in 2018.








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