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Mater Research Professor Josephine Forbes is one of three leading women scientists in Queensland to be recognised with an inaugural Women in STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – award.
Prof Forbes received the award for her achievements in research to prevent the development of kidney disease in patients with Type 1 Diabetes.
“I feel very fortunate to have received this award and have the opportunity to communicate my research to a panel of judges who consisted of high-profile researchers, Ministers and media representatives,” she said.
“It’s really important to have these opportunities to share what we are doing with a broad audience and in a way that is engaging for everyone.”
Prof Forbes is part of a team at Mater Research working to slow the progression of diabetes which often leads to kidney disease.
“Thirty per cent of patients with diabetes will go on to get kidney disease and this costs the health system millions of dollars each year. We think that the kidney power stations, called mitochondria, are not working correctly and that this may increase the risk for developing kidney disease when you get diabetes.
“At Mater Hospital Brisbane we are conducting a clinical trial where we are taking urine, blood and saliva samples from adolescents and young adults with Type 1
Diabetes between the ages of 15 and 25. These are amazing young people with many challenges in their lives and yet they are so willing to help.
“We are looking at energy molecules made by the kidney power stations in these samples to determine the relationship between their fingerprint relative to sugar control and kidney dysfunction.
“Our team will then apply these results to another study where young people have been followed up for a further eight years to compare results.
“We also have two medicines from biotechnology companies that we are actively testing and once we have sufficient data we will look at starting human trials.”
Prof Forbes said she was one of many Queensland women doing remarkable things in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths.
“I encourage more women to take up a career in science and share with others the interesting work they are doing,” she said.
A busy mum of two, Prof Forbes said it was challenging at times to work full time in medical research but rewarding to see her research progress and help save lives.
“There are some big challenges for women in medicine, science, engineering and other innovative industries. Striking a balance between work and family can be difficult which prevents some women from continuing to work in these fields and continuing into leadership positions. There is also increasing pressure to be across many different fields including commercial development.
“With the support of my family, I have managed to organise my days so that I’m efficient and fully focused on work, while also allocating special time with my children and husband.”