Jason Palazzolo is a PhD candidate with Monash University and the recipient of the PhD Scholarship (Cardiology) supported by Australian Rotary Health and Rotary District 9830. Based at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases, Jason performs his biomedical research where he aims to develop novel therapies for the treatment of thrombosis and related thrombotic diseases, specifically stroke. Jason’s research incorporates innovative therapeutic designs, including novel fusion proteins and nanoparticle technologies.
Prior to commencing his PhD, Jason held a career in the pharmaceutical industry where he worked a variety of roles, including Project Coordinator in the production of clinical trial medicinal products as well as Research Scientist in the technical development of the influenza vaccine manufacturing process. In addition to his pharmaceutical industry career,Jason completed his university studies at The University of Melbourne, where he graduated with his Bachelor of Science and Master of Biomedical Science.
Jason lives in Melbourne alongside his wife Daphne, where he is a keen follower of the Australian Football League (AFL) and a long-term member of the North Melbourne Football Club. Furthermore, Jason enjoys his community engagement, specifically amongst the broader Rotary society. Through these interactions, Jason aims to raise awareness of stroke and thrombotic disease in the hope to reduce their burden globally.
Below is the content of what would have been Jason’s presentation:
Promising New Therapies for Stroke Patients – Hope During These Times of Hardship
Australia has endured many hardships in recent times. Our 2019-2020 bushfire season, now known as the Black Summer, was one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent memory. Whilst the current COVID-19 pandemic has imposed unprecedented medical, economical and societal impacts upon all Australians, as well as the broader global population. To make matters worse, the impact of these events have been felt more so, due to their overlapping occurrences.
These events have imposed untold devastation upon our nation; however, they are not the only hardships to occur during these times. Stroke is a disease that affects countless individuals every day, with current statistics suggesting that one stroke occurs every nine minutes. Tragically, stroke is one of the leading causes of death for Australian men and women, particularly amongst our senior citizens. However, the burden of stroke extends beyond its high mortality rate, where up to 50% of all stroke survivors are permanently disabled.
Unfortunately, strokes can occur at any time, irrespective of our day-to-day circumstances. It is hard to imagine, but countless Australians have felt the impact of stroke during these difficult times we have faced. Whether they had recently lost their family-home during those relentless bushfires, or whether they were restricted to self-isolation and distanced from their family and friends during this pandemic, people have continued to suffer strokes and thousands of lives have been affected as a result.
When a stroke occurs, it is a medical emergency. Time becomes the most important factor. Simply put, when someone is suffering a stroke, their brain is experiencing severe and irreversible damage. This brain damage may be relatively minor in those early moments of stroke, however, without timely hospitalisation and treatment, the brain will become extensively damaged. Therefore, it is essential that stroke sufferers are identified early using the F.A.S.T. guidelines (Is their Face drooping? Can they lift their Arms? Is their Speech slurred? If so, Time to call emergency services). General stroke awareness is more important now than ever given that recent scientific reports have begun to show that there may be an increased risk of stroke with COVID-19 patients, particularly amongst people younger than expected (less than 50 years of age).
Personally, I have recently witnessed this tragedy first-hand when my grandfather unexpectedly passed away due to complications soon after his stroke. Since his passing, and having felt the impact of stroke directly, I have been motivated to apply my PhD towards developing novel and improved therapies to treat stroke patients with the hope to ultimately minimise the impact of stroke in the community.
My PhD research is based at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases (Melbourne) where I am a member of the NanoBiotechnology Group. Here, I am developing new therapies to treat stroke patients, specifically those whose stroke is caused by blood clots forming within their brain. When these blood clots form, they need to be urgently dissolved in order to minimise the extent of permanent brain damage, which can cause disabilities and/or death if left untreated.
Currently, there is only one drug available to clinicians for dissolving these blood clots in the brain. Although this drug is sometimes effective, it often presents with significant side-effects and complications, which may limit its clinical use. Therefore, I aim to develop new therapies, using innovative biomedical technologies, which will help achieve better therapeutic outcomes for stroke patients and hopefully improve their quality of life after stroke.
My research is only made possible through the generous support afforded by my PhD scholarship, which is co-funded by Australian Rotary Health and Rotary District 9830. It is through the compassion and charity of these Rotary organisations (and their many dedicated Rotarians) that us scientists are enabled to pursue research that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of all members throughout our communities. Although I am relatively new to the Rotary family, I have quickly realised that its members make Rotary the successful community cornerstone that we see today. Special thanks are extended to Kevin Shadbolt, Professor Don McTaggart as well as my PhD supervisors, family, friends and my wife Daphne, who continue to support me through my academic pursuits.
I welcome all opportunities to interact with as many people as possible, particularly amongst the Rotary community. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to know more about my research.
As a closing statement, I would like to end by saying that although we have experienced immeasurable hardship during recent times, the mateship shown amongst all Australians has been first-class and worthy of recognition amongst our global peers. Hopefully, we can return back to normal in the coming weeks and I am able to visit Tasmania, meet its many dedicated Rotarians and express my gratitude for the opportunities afforded to me through their ongoing support.