Student wins scholarship to study causes of autoimmune disease

A medical science graduate has been awarded a scholarship to continue his research into the genetic causes of autoimmune disease.

Grant Brown has been awarded the inaugural Elizabeth Greene Scholarship to undertake his PhD with Professor Carola Vinuesa at the John Curtin School of Medical Research and the Centre for Personalised Immunology at ANU.

Grant said he felt privileged to be the first person to be awarded the scholarship and would research rare genetic mutations in the cause of the autoimmune disease called lupus. 

"I'll investigate a range of individuals with lupus to identify genetic mutations that may cause problems with their immune system and cause disease," said Grant, who graduated with Honours in a Bachelor of Medical Science.

"If we can identify particular pathways that maybe contributing to disease it could lead to more targeted treatments for the individuals."

Lupus is a chronic and incurable autoimmune disease where a person's immune system attacks their own body, Grant said. 

"Lupus can affect the whole body and has a range of symptoms including skin rashes, anaemia, chest and kidney inflammation and neurological disorders. In serious cases the disease can be fatal, such as from kidney, neurological or heart problems," he said.

About 17,000 people in Australia have lupus, and females are nine times more likely to develop the condition. 

Philanthropist Peter Yates and his family established the Elizabeth Green Scholarship program in honour of his half-sister Elizabeth Green, who died from lupus.