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A Cairns immunologist who is investigating the benefits of hookworms for people with coeliac disease has been chosen as Queensland’s inaugural Emerging Science Leader.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad presented the award to AITHM researcher Dr Paul Giacomin at last night’s (Thursday 23 March) Queensland Science Reception in Brisbane.

Dr Giacomin was selected as Emerging Science Leader from the 40 current Advance Queensland Research Fellows.

This award, to be made annually, identifies a current Queensland scientist who is creating breakthroughs in research, leading collaboration, advocating for science, and inspiring others to build a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Dr Giacomin said he was excited and honoured to be selected. “I think it is a fantastic initiative to acknowledge emerging Queensland-based scientists for both their academic and community engagement achievements,” he said.

As an Emerging Science Leader, he will continue to actively advocate for Queensland science and highlight the achievements of scientists across the state, as well as supporting the Queensland Chief Scientist as an ambassador for science.

His research investigates the key immune cells and cytokines involved in immunity to intestinal worms, as well as exploring the potential beneficial effects that worm infection may have in alleviating inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases.

“It might seem like an unlikely remedy, but we know that parasitic worms are able to survive in the human gut by dialling back our immune response. This research puts that ability to work against coeliac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder,” he said.

A further three JCU researchers were awarded Advance Queensland Research Fellowships at last night’s reception, along with a PhD Scholarship.

Professor Emma McBryde was awarded a mid-career fellowship with funding of $300,000 to support her research on using a health system approach to combat antibiotic resistant infections.  Professor McBryde’s research is conducted in partnership with the Townsville Hospital and Health Service.

Dr Joseph Moxon received a mid-career fellowship with funding of $300,000 to support his clinical and economic evaluation of novel blood tests for stroke.  Dr Moxon’s research is also conducted in partnership with the Townsville Hospital and Health Service.

Dr April Hall was awarded an early-career fellowship, with funding of $180,000 for her investigation of the value of conservation parks on the Great Barrier Reef. Dr Hall’s research is conducted in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Postgraduate student Adrien Marc’s PhD scholarship will support his research into reproductive techniques and infertility in barramundi.

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