Chronic disease and ageing research news

Theme co-leaders, Stephen Leeder and Richard Lindley

Professor Stephen Leeder

Stephen Leeder is a Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of Sydney and is currently a Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy, and Director (Research Network) at Sydney West Area Health Service.

Professor Leeder has a long history of involvement in public health research, educational development and policy. In 2003-2004, Professor Leeder worked at Columbia University, New York, in the Earth Institute and Mailman School of Public Health. He developed a substantial report, based on research data and scientific interpretation, of the economic consequences of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in developing economies. The report, A Race against Time: the challenge of cardiovascular disease in developing economies, concentrated upon the macroeconomic consequences of CVD, and especially on the fact that one-third of CVD deaths in many developing countries occurred among people of working age.

Professor Leeder also has 35 years of experience in epidemiological research, medical education reform and in mentoring young investigators.

Professor Richard Lindley


Richard Lindley is Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Moran Foundation for Older Australians. His research interests have concentrated on randomised controlled trials of new treatments for older people, especially in stroke medicine. He has been an investigator in many of the clinical trials that have changed clinical practice, such as immediate aspirin for people with acute ischaemic stroke, statins for older people, and blood pressure lowering after stroke. His recent work includes a variety of projects from vaccination trials for frail older people, studies of influenza control in nursing homes, to exercise after stroke. He is currently involved in some of the largest clinical trials in stroke medicine (IST-3, AVERT and INTERACT-2).

Richard trained in General and Geriatric Medicine in England, Scotland and Australia. He spent 3 years as a research fellow with the Edinburgh Stroke Group and was awarded a Doctorate in Medicine in 1995. After 7 years as Consultant and Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh he moved to The University of Sydney to take up the Moran Foundation for Older Australians Chair of Geriatric Medicine in 2003.

Public health and tobacco

Simon Chapman is Professor in Public Health. He is a sociologist with a PhD on the semiotics of cigarette advertising, author of 11 books and major government reports, and 192 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Professor Chapman’s main research interests are in tobacco control, media discourses on health and illness, and risk communication. He teaches annual courses in Public Health Advocacy and Tobacco Control in the University of Sydney's Master of Public Health program.

Professor Chapman's expertise has been sought by international organisations and his contribution awarded by national and international bodies. From 1984-2002, Simon was a member of the World Health Organization's Expert Advisory Panel on Tobacco and Health. In 1997 he won the World Health Organization's 'World No Tobacco Day' Medal, and in 2003, his international peers voted him to receive the Terry Luther medal for outstanding individual leadership in tobacco control.

In 2005, Professor Chapman’s NH&MRC project was acknowledged, by then Health Minister Tony Abbott, by being chosen as one of 10 outstanding projects funded in recent years by the NHMRC. Professor Chapman's group was jointly funded by the NHMRC and the US National Cancer Institute to comb through over 40 million pages of previously internal tobacco industry documents on Australia and Asia, researching how the tobacco industry sought to ‘reassure' smokers that they need not be concerned about the health risks of smoking, how the industry denied that nicotine is addictive and that it was interested in the teenage market, and how it generally opposed all effective forms of tobacco control.

Understanding the basis of lung disease

Professor Judy Black's team of enthusiastic researchers is committed to understanding the cellular and molecular basis of lung diseases – some common, like asthma - and some rare, but fatal, like lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) which attacks the lungs of young women in their reproductive years. Professor Black's team is also interested in why only some smokers develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and what happens to lung cells when they are exposed to asbestos.

Professor Black is part of the Collaborative Research Centre for Asthma and Airways which involves working together with major research groups around Australia to develop new treatments for asthma.

Professor Black is a Senior Principal Research Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council and has recently completed a three year term as chair of that body's Research Committee. She is keen to foster the careers of up and coming stars to ensure that the University of Sydney has access to the next generation of the best medical researchers

The molecular mechanisms of bone ageing

Associate Professor Gustavo Duque attended medical school at the University of Caldas (Colombia). Following medical school he completed an internal medicine residency at Javeriana University in Bogota (Colombia), followed by a two-year fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at McGill University. After completing his fellowship, Associate Professor Duque completed a PhD in Experimental Medicine at McGill University with the thesis entitled “Molecular Changes of the Aging Osteoblast”. He joined the faculty at McGill University Medical School in 2003 as a member of the Division of Geriatric Medicine. In 2003, he also joined the McGill University-Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research as Project Director.

In 2007, Associate Professor Duque joined the Nepean Clinical School of the University of Sydney as Associate Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Director of the Aging Bone Research Program. His research focuses on the identification of mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of osteoporosis in older persons, as well as prevention of osteoporotic fractures in this population. His work on mesenchymal stem cells differentiation has provided new evidence to the understanding of senile osteoporosis, including the toxic role of bone marrow fat and the potential trans-differentiation between bone and fat cells. His experiments using vitamin D in bone cells have demonstrated a new anabolic effect of vitamin D on both osteoblasts and differentiating mesenchymal stem cells.

Associate Professor Duque's Research Program has developed collaborations with major academic institutions worldwide. He is currently funded by major agencies in Canada. He has published extensively on the biology of aging bone and the effect of vitamin D on bone formation. Additionally, he has pursued some clinical studies on vitamin D deficiency and falls prevention in older adults.