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2016 James B Skatrud New Investigator Award Winner

Bradley Edwards

Bradley Edwards, PhD

Dr. Edwards completed his PhD in respiratory physiology at Monash University, Australia under the supervision of Drs. Philip Berger and Malcolm Wilkinson in 2009. During this time he developed expertise in the use of engineering control theory to predict the behaviour of the respiratory control system, with a particular focus on why almost all infants exhibit apnea and periodic breathing in the first six months of life. This work established that unstable breathing patterns can be generated in the newborn by increasing the sensitivity of the chemical control loop of the respiratory controller – its loop gain. Dr Edwards’ work demonstrated that loop gain can be raised or lowered in predictable ways to promote or to switch off unstable breathing patterns.

Following his PhD, Dr. Edwards was awarded two successive fellowships (2010-11; Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand Allen and Hanburys Respiratory Research Fellowship, 2012-16; National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia CJ Martin Fellowship) that enabled him to pursue post-doctoral studies at Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA) in the laboratory of Prof. Atul Malhotra. During this time, his research was directed at understanding the pathogenesis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), an increasingly prevalent disorder that has serious health consequences but a leading treatment (nasal CPAP) that is poorly tolerated by many. Dr. Edwards’ research strategy is built around the premise that OSA pathogenesis results from the interaction of several physiological ‘traits’ that provide multiple targets for drugs/interventions that will effectively treat this disorder. Specifically, he played a key role in developing a technique to ‘phenotype’ the underlying causes of OSA with Andrew Wellman and has since pioneered the development of simple-to-use clinical tools for non-invasively phenotyping patients with OSA. Application of these new tools has shown 1) how age alters each of four OSA traits, which helps explain the age-related increases in OSA prevalence and 2) that manipulating the ventilatory control system with oxygen or acetazolamide can lower an individual’s loop gain and improve OSA severity. This work led to his promotion to Faculty in 2012 and the prestigious Anne Elizabeth Suratt Young Investigator Award (13th International Symposium on Sleep and Breathing).

Dr. Edwards has now returned to Monash University as a Senior Research Fellow where he leads the Sleep Disorders Research Program. Brad and his team are continuing research focused on better understanding the causes of OSA as well as examining how this information can be used to develop new ways to treat the disorder. At Monash, his research has utilized measures of an individual’s phenotype to aid the selection of patients who are likely to have their OSA resolved either with existing therapies, such as oral appliances or upper-airway surgery, or novel combinations of drugs or agents. The guiding principle of Brad’s research strategy is that a priori knowledge of an OSA patient’s underlying pathophysiology takes us one step closer to individualized therapy for patients with OSA: this advance beyond CPAP reliance for OSA will provide patients with a greater range of treatment options, and thereby improve treatment adherence as well as quality of life and health outcomes.

Brad’s career to date has produced more than 45 peer-reviewed original publications and the recent award of a Future Leader Fellowship by the Heart Foundation of Australia.

Dr Edwards is honoured to receive the 2016 James B. Skatrud Young Investigator Award. He acknowledges that this award would not have been possible without the strong support he has received both from his mentors and research colleagues.