$2 million boost to better understand chronic disease

Internationally recognised sleep apnea expert and University of Sydney Professor Colin Sullivan is bolstering critical research in sleep and its relationship to chronic disease with a $2 million gift to the University. The gift will establish a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in perpetuity.

The position will be awarded to an outstanding early career researcher who will work under the recently appointed ResMed Chair in Sleep Medicine, Professor Peter Cistulli.

“This is an incredible boost to an important and growing area of research,” said Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney.

“Not only will these funds contribute to the better understanding of sleep-disordered breathing, they will open up an invaluable opportunity for early career researchers to advance their careers.”

Chronic diseases, such as chronic lung disease, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, are the leading causes of mortality in the world. There is growing evidence that sleep-disordered breathing and other disruptors of sleep play an exacerbating role in many of these chronic disorders, and that intervention improves outcomes.

The ResMed Chair in Sleep Medicine and the Colin Sullivan Post-Doctoral Research Fellow will work across the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Charles Perkins Centre.

“Sleep touches many aspects of health, but has tended to be under-recognised as a cause or contributor to many of society’s chronic diseases,” Professor Cistulli said.

The research will take a multi-disciplinary approach, looking at chronic diseases and their relationship to sleep in new and innovative ways.

Professor Sullivan, an alumnus of the University, has made significant contributions internationally to the understanding and treatment of sleep apnea. His contributions include establishing the first diagnostic sleep laboratory for adults in the early 1980’s at the University, which then became the Centre for Respiratory Failure and Sleep Disorders at RPAH.

Professor Sullivan’s invention and application of CPAP technology used to treat sleep apnea was instrumental in the development of Sleep Medicine as a clinical specialty. The use of this method by Sullivan and his team was extended to enable breathing support in sleep in patients with respiratory diseases, which  led to a revolution in the management of respiratory failure. This early work was critical in the formation of ResMed. He also established the first Paediatric Sleep Services at both Westmead and Sydney Children’s hospitals, and trained several generations of sleep specialists, scientists, nursing and technical staff.

“We are extremely grateful for Professor Sullivan’s generous gift and his belief in and commitment to this area of research,” Dr Spence said.